The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Decks clear for bridge repair
- Port Trust & Rites to oversee work next week

Calcutta, July 2: Repair of the Howrah bridge, damaged after a barge rammed into its belly on June 24, will begin next week under the supervision of experts from Calcutta Port Trust and Rites, consultants for the trust from the eighties.

The British firm which had designed the Howrah bridge in 1937 has offered to help with technical know-how.

High Point Rendell (HPR) India Pvt Ltd, the Indian arm of HPR, formerly known as Rendel Palmer and Tritton, has written a letter to the port trust assuring all support.

'Howrah bridge is synonymous with Calcutta. In our message, we have expressed the desire to extend all cooperation to CPT in the repairing process,' B.N. Sarawgi, director, HPR India, said over phone from Delhi.

On the afternoon of June 24, an empty barge cruising along a wrong corridor of Hooghly had rammed into the bridge. Two of the six longitudinal girders, each 700 metres and running from the Calcutta end of the bridge to Howrah, were damaged. A few of the 40 cross-girders were also broken.

Initially, the damage was estimated at Rs 1.5 crore but later authorities said it could be more.

'Detailed plans are being worked out and repair will start next week,' the port trust's chief engineer A.K. Mehra said.

First, a scaffolding will be erected and then the trolley-track repaired. 'The damage of the trolley tracks has affected the repair work and we have to reconstruct these first,' Port Trust chairman A.K. Chanda said.

A mechanised state-of-the-art trolley, recently installed to facilitate inspection and maintenance of the bridge's underside, had escaped damage. But two of four trolley guides, bolted and welded with the girders, were extensively damaged.

On Monday, the port trust will formally request Rites to take part in the repair. Before starting work, Rites will submit a scheme providing all the details, officials said.

Overall repairs to the bridge were carried out in 2004 and it was generally in good condition, an official said.

According to Sarawgi, HPR India had provided technical assistance to the port trust for the bridge's renovation more than a decade ago.

Chanda confirmed that preliminary talks have been held with HPR India. 'We will make an assessment of the whole situation after the repair work gets going and then the final decision (on involving HPR) will be taken,' he said.

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