| Sonepur-Digha rail-cum-road bridge under construction. Picture by Ashok Sinha |
Patna, March 7: The Sonepur-Digha rail-cum-road bridge, which would connect south and north Bihar, is heading towards another deadline failure.
The construction of the bridge began in 2002 and was scheduled to be completed in 2007. It was later extended to 2009. Now, a fresh deadline of 2014 has been set for the project. Sources in Indian Railway Construction (Ircon) Company, which has been awarded the project, however, said the bridge would be completed by 2017.
The bridge, with a proposed length of 4.5km over Ganga, would be a boon for the people of Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Chhapra, Siwan, Gorakhpur and other districts of north Bihar, as they would not have to take the Gandhi Setu to visit the capital.
When The Telegraph visited the site of the construction on the Digha side, it found that the work is going on at a snail’s pace. An Ircon official said: “The work is behind schedule. Going by the current pace, it is expected to be operational by 2017. The work could not be undertaken in full swing because of funds problem. When the project was conceived in 2002, the estimated cost was Rs 450 crore. But because of the delay, it had escalated to Rs 1,366 crore by 2009.”
There is also a lack of co-ordination between the two ministries, which has resulted in the delay, a source said. The Ircon official added: “I cannot rule out the possibility that the cost may go up to Rs 3,000 crore till the time the project is completed.”
Asked about the percentage of the work completed, the official added: “Out of 36 spans, measuring about 123m each, only five spans have been placed on the pillar. The most difficult work is placing the span on the pillars, which weighs nearly 300 tonnes.”
Dharam Prakash, the deputy chief engineer of the project, said: “All 39 pillars have been constructed and work is going on. It is likely to be completed by 2014. Earlier, there were technical problems because such a big project is being carried out for the first time in Bihar. The engineers take time to understand the work.”