| The fissure on the Jubilee bridge at Naihati. Picture by Soumen Bhattacharya
Naihati (North 24 Parganas), Oct. 15: A hairline crack detected two years ago on one of the main pillars of the 1000-feet Jubilee railway bridge near here has widened today into a dangerous fissure, a testimony to the neglect of railway authorities despite a spate of accidents.
There is yet no sign of repair though the iron and wooden shafts used by the Eastern Railway to gird the weakened pillar are buckling under pressure of the heavy traffic on the bridge.
Apart from 12 pairs of local trains and express trains like Hateybazare, Gour, Teesta-Torsa, Kanchankanya and Lal Qilla, at least 30 goods trains trundle across the bridge regularly.
Moreover, the wooden sleepers that cradle the tracks on the pillars have worn out at the Garifa end, leaving a wide gap between rail and the pillar.
The situation is so serious that all trains passing over the bridge have to come to a dead stop before the bridge and cross it very slowly.
At night, drivers of all trains, except the locals, have to sign a caution book — to show they are going to stick to the speed designated —maintained by Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) guards before crossing the bridge.
“We have restricted the speed of trains to 30 km per hour. Moreover, we are regularly monitoring the condition of the bridge. In the near future, we may have to suspend services on the bridge if it comes to an alarming level,” Swapan Chowdhury, divisional railway manager of Howrah, said.
If the fissure is still not alarming to officials, at least a queer fallout should be. RPF personnel deployed on the bridge to ensure security themselves admit that anti-socials often rob passengers taking advantage of trains coming to a stop and then trundling across slowly.
An untoward incident was averted today when the Howrah-bound Santiniketan Express was stopped and redirected after a crack on the track between Guskara and Noadhar Dhal stations in the Bolpur-Khana section of Eastern Railway’s Howrah division was reported by two villagers.
The train was taken back to Guskara station and from there it left for Howrah in a single-line operation at 3.45 pm. It reached Howrah at 6.20 pm.