The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fix-it flurry on the bridge
- Upkeep agencies draw up single-flank repair roster from 11 pm to dawn

The Gateway to Calcutta could soon be less woeful and more welcoming. On the face of it, at least.

A week after Metro took a horror ride on Howrah bridge, the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) brass has decided to take up repair work from Friday midnight.

Following the September 1 report, Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar had taken cognisance of the matter and appointed a fact-finding team to inspect the potholed pathway to and on Howrah bridge.

On Friday, the high court asked Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC), CPT and the state transport department to assist the court “in judging what immediate steps could be taken for repairs of the potholes that have developed on Rabindra Setu”.

These agencies are expected to submit their report by the last week of September, when the court hears the case.

With the heat on the minders of Howrah bridge, the police brass and CPT officials met at Lalbazar, and drew up a repair roster, to be rolled out from post-11 pm till dawn, for the next few days. To begin with, repairs would be restricted to one flank, allowing traffic movement along the other.

“The road on the bridge needs an overhaul but it is the timing of the repair work that is cause for concern. The CPT has agreed to deliver by Mahalaya but that could be cutting it too fine, particularly with the load rising every day owing to the Puja rush. So, we have decided to keep a watch on how things progress for the a few days before deciding on the next step,” said Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner of police (traffic).

Friday afternoon witnessed a flurry of activity on the long-neglected bridge, with stone chips and mastic asphalt being dumped and labourers dismantling some frayed concrete ends along the sides.

“Over the weekend, traffic should be a shade less on the bridge. On Monday, we will be able to take stock of the progress and then decide whether to go ahead with the full-scale repairs or defer it till post-Puja,” said an officer of the Howrah Bridge Traffic Guard.

The fear of a court rap has activated a long-dormant force entrusted with the maintenance of Howrah bridge.

On September 2, Chief Justice Sirpurkar, while presiding over a green bench, had appointed advocate Tapas Bhanja amicus curiae in the matter, with advocate Sanat Chowdhury assisting him. Environmentalist Subhas Dutta was also asked to help the duo and file a report on the condition of the bridge and where the buck should stop.

In his report — a copy of which is with Metro — Dutta says the road surface should be repaired immediately and that a status report on the completion of the repair work “may be called for”.

Using photographs to illustrate the poor condition of the bridge, Dutta has also called for a “structural audit”. The last such study was carried out by RITES in 1983.

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