Vehicles leaving and entering the city on Kona Expressway struggled to move on Saturday morning when restrictions came into effect to make way for the repair of the Santragachhi rail bridge in Howrah.
By Friday night, engineers at work had covered a part of one of the two flanks of the bridge for the repairs leaving the other open for vehicles. From morning, as smaller vehicles and buses began plying, police switched to a tidal mode of restricting vehicles. One set of vehicles was allowed to move down the bridge’s only flank open for movement while the other set was kept waiting on the opposite end.
The Santragachhi bridge, which connects NH-16 to Kona Expressway in Howrah, is a lifeline for vehicles entering and leaving Calcutta mostly via the Vidyasagar Setu. A traffic survey by Howrah police has revealed close to 70,000 vehicles use the bridge, whose girders were last repaired thoroughly in 2016, daily.
Six years later, PWD engineers have decided to replace close to 20 damaged expansion joints of the bridge.
With police opting for phased clearance, vehicles queued up on both ends of the Santragachhi bridge on Kona Expressway on Saturday morning.
The queue prompted a section of senior officers to divert several cars, headed towards Nibra crossing — at the end of Kona Expressway on the Howrah-end — from Vidyasagar Setu down Amta Road.
A section of motorists said around 10 am, the police diverted cars headed for Santragachhi bridge — from Vidyasagar Setu — from Belepole crossing towards Sanpur More to move further west along Amta Road.
Amta Road connects Salap in Howrah with Kona Expressway. Officers had identified this thoroughfare as a key alternative. For most motorists, even this alternative route proved difficult.
“It took me close to two hours to cover a distance of around 5.2km from Sanpur and Salap,” said commuter.
“Around 10.30 am, there was a long row of cars on both flanks of Amta Road with buses, autorickshaws and cars struggling for road space.”
Senior police officers led by Praveen Kumar Tripathi, police commissioner of the Howrah police commissionerate, visited Santragachhi bridge during the day.
“A huge deployment of officers has been made to meet the challenges that the diversion would throw up,” Tripathi said. “We have decided that emergency vehicles including ambulances would be diverted down the shortest possible route.”
In Kolkata, the police will divert all goods vehicles headed for Delhi Road from Budge Budge, Maheshtala, Kolkata port, Posta down BT Road, Dunlop and Nivedita Setu.
“The impact will be felt the most from Monday,” said an officer in Kolkata.