The bascule bridge, which connects Kidderpore and Garden Reach, will be closed for at least two months in the second half of 2022 for an overhaul of the 50-year-old structure.
The Kolkata port, the custodian of the bridge, will float a global tender for the work, which will take about six months from the start.
The bridge, which sits on top of a narrow creek that allows ships and barges from the Hooghly to enter the Kidderpore dock, will have to be closed for at least two months for the overhaul.
The port authorities had hired American consultancy firm Modjeski & Masters to find a permanent solution to the recurring problems bugging the bridge. Based on the suggestion received, the port will float the tender.
A bascule bridge splits into two and folds upwards to allow ships or barges to pass through. The Pamban bridge in Tamil Nadu is the only other bascule bridge in India, even though there are many across the world, most notably the Tower Bridge on the Thames in London.
“We are budgeting an expense of Rs 66 crore for the repair. The plan is to change the hydraulic system to electrical motors,” Vinit Kumar, chairman of Syamaprasad Mookerjee Port, Kolkata, said on Monday.
The bascule bridge that connects Kidderpore and Garden Reach
The port is seeking 50 per cent of the funds from the Centre under the Sagarmala programme, which financially supports road connectivity in ports, and is hopeful of receiving it.
Once switched to the new system, the bridge can be used more frequently and faster. It now takes about 25 minutes to open the bridge and close it. Snag had hit the bridge several times in the recent past when the two leaves of the bridge refused to come down.
The port now opens the leaves sparingly — three to four times a week at night — to avoid traffic disruption.
The two months’ closure could lead to major traffic disruption in the area as the bridge is used by a large number of vehicles and people travelling between Kidderpore and Garden Reach.
Kumar said the port had been in touch with the administration to make necessary arrangements. “This is an important infrastructure upgrade that cannot be avoided,” he explained.
As part of decongesting port traffic, the port is taking up several initiatives, including setting up a terminal at Balagarh in Hooghly, 80km north of Kolkata, at an investment of Rs 370 crore.
The port is also toying with the idea to build a tunnel under the Hooghly connecting Kidderpore and Shalimar to allow smooth flow of traffic, bypassing Vidyasagar Setu and major parts of south-west Kolkata.
The tunnel project is still only in a conceptual stage.
Flanked by deputy chairman (Haldia) A.K Mehra and deputy chairman (Kolkata) Samrat Rahi, Kumar detailed projects worth around Rs 1,300 crore, including Balagarh, to improve cargo traffic movement in the port area.
The Balagarh terminal, called extended gate in port parlance, will be built through public-private partnership. The port has 300 acres of land, where two berths will come up initially and four later.
Once the terminal is developed, barges can carry bulk cargo and containers upstream from Kolkata and Haldia to Balagarh, bypassing the road or railway network.
“The Balagarh terminal will be beneficial for trade and industries in the Durgapur/Asansol region,” Kumar said.