Siliguri, Dec.6: The Centre has given sanction for the construction of a bridge over the Teesta at Sevoke Bazar that would shorten the journey between Dooars and Siliguri by 15-20km.
Once the bridge — it would be 1.6km-long and with a width of 13m — is in place, people from the Dooars can avoid the 15-20km drive through the hills to reach Siliguri using the Coronation bridge. The journey time would reduce by 30-45 minutes minimum.
The central nod for proposed bridge, which would be close to NH31C, came in late November.
The Teesta bridge in Jalpaiguri and the Gajoldoba barrage are also used by the Dooars people to travel to Siliguri.
The Teesta bridge along the NH31D is in a bad condition and the barrage bridge is not ideal for travel because the road to it is narrow and heavy vehicles are not allowed on the bridge.
“We had sent a detailed project report on the proposed bridge at Sevoke Bazar and the Union ministry for surface transport and roadways has given the green light. In our report, we had made an assessment of Rs 120 crore to build the bridge. The ministry had invited tenders for the work, but they were cancelled as only two bids were submitted. The Centre has again called for tenders which are likely to close in the third week of December,” said Nirmal Mondal, the executive engineer of the public works department (NH division IX).
The PWD rules stipulate that at least three firms should take part in the tendering process. Over the past decade or so, people in the Dooars had been demanding an alternative bridge over the Teesta so that the 15-20km drive through the hills via the Coronation Bridge could be avoided. Traffic restrictions on the Coronation bridge after cracks were found in the structure strengthened the demand.
“After the restrictions were imposed on the movement of heavy vehicles through the Coronation bridge, we were left with only two options — the Teesta Bridge near Jalpaiguri and the Gajoldoba barrage bridge. While the Teesta Bridge is not motorable now, the road to Gajoldoba barrage is narrow and it can take only light vehicles,” said Bijoy Barua, a businessman based in Banarhat.
The Dooars residents said landslides in the hilly portions along NH31C would make the travel via Sevoke inconvenient during the monsoon.
“It takes more time to reach Siliguri through Sevoke, considering the congestion in traffic and the hilly tracts. Landslides would only make the situation worse during rains,” said Prabhat Dey, the secretary of the Dooars East West Corridor Movement Committee in Malbazar.
The site of the new bridge is 15km from Siliguri, Sevoke is further 10km uphill.
The Centre has also sanctioned Rs 95 lakh to repair the Coronation Bridge, through which vehicles weighing more than 16MT are not allowed to move now. According to PWD sources, the proposed bridge will connect NH31C through an approach road that will be constructed through tea gardens in the foothills. The bridge would reduce the travel to Dooars by 10 to 15 km, they said.