Mamata target: new bridge in a year

Plan to restore fallen slab scrapped

By Our Special Correspondent in Calcutta
  • Published 15.09.18
Additional commissioner of city police Vineet Goyal, divisional railway manager (Sealdah) Prabhas Dansana and other officials during a survey from a train on Friday morning to identify level crossings, railway posts and other infrastructure that have to be relocated while creating two roads 500 metres apart to the east of the Majerhat bridge

Calcutta: The entire span of the Majerhat bridge will be pulled down and a new one built "within a year", chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Friday amid doubts about whether the deadline is feasible given the challenges of erecting a structure over rail tracks and getting work done during the festive season.

"The (investigation) committee headed by the chief secretary has recommended that the remaining portions of the Majerhat bridge be pulled down immediately. Construction of the new bridge will start within a month and will be completed by a year under the direct supervision of the chief secretary," Mamata said during a news conference at Nabanna, the state secretariat.

The announcement is in line with the recommendation of a private infrastructure company that had assessed the stability of the bridge at the government's request. Metro reported on Friday that the company had advised the government against rebuilding only the portion that collapsed on September 4, citing irreparable damage over time to the girders and the deck slabs that stand on an otherwise strong foundation.

An engineer in the team said the design of the bridge was a complex one compared to modern structures that have far fewer girders across a deck slab of equal length.

Officials at Nabanna said that the investigation committee had consulted the PWD and some external agencies before preparing its preliminary report. Almost everyone whose opinion had been solicited told the committee that retaining the intact portions of the Majerhat bridge would be risky because the superstructure had developed "load fatigue".

"The initial plan was to have a temporary structure replace the collapsed portion of the bridge to ease the traffic congestion in the southern part of the city. Construction of the new bridge was to start at the same time. This plan was dropped after experts submitted their views. The administration also realised that building a new bridge along the existing one is not possible because land is unavailable," an official said.

According to the chief minister, the state government and the railways have been working together to build a road along the bridge and across the rail tracks to provide some relief to residents of Behala, Thakurpukur and parts of South 24-Parganas. "We have urged the railways to create a level crossing each on either side of the road. The state government will pay for these," Mamata said.

The government is already building two roads 500 metres apart to the east of the Majerhat bridge to restore the north-south link. "The government is leaving no stone unturned to complete the new bridge within a year, which will be a permanent solution," a senior official said.

The state government has decided to give the bridge project to Mackintosh Burn Ltd, a public sector company, instead of inviting bids. "This will save us at least six months... A government company can be awarded a project without floating a tender," the official said.

Based on a primary assessment, it has been tentatively decided that the proposed new bridge will have six piers to support prefabricated components. "This can differ to some extent after the final drawing... But it appears that we will be able to meet the deadline," the official said.

But even with the government, doubts linger about the deadline. "If prefabricated components have to be laid over the piers, heavy cranes need to be used and so the train service will get affected. For work to continue, trains have to be stopped. The question is whether trains can be suspended for so long," another official said.