“The state government has asked Metro Railways to stop its work near Majerhat bridge temporarily, till the high-powered committee headed by chief secretary Moloy Dey, submits its report on the collapse. The committee has been asked to submit its report within a week”, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee told a press conference, on September 6, 2018, after a review meeting at the state secretariat. The PWD chief engineer has given a report, which found that Metro Railway construction work has created many problems at the place, she said.
Noting that the Metro Railways had been working there for the last nine years, she said, “The piling work caused big vibration. It might have affected the bridge. The high-powered committee will look into it.” Banerjee said that ‘strong action’ would be taken against those found guilty by the probe committee. “Whoever is found guilty, will face strong action. There will be no compromise in that,” she said.
Soon after a portion of the bridge collapsed on September 4, 2018, Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), executing the construction of the Joka-BBD Bag metro corridor, passing through the vicinity of Majerhat bridge, had said that ‘there is no connection of the metro construction’ with the incident. RVNL chief project manager/line AK Roy had said the collapse of Majerhat bridge girder over canal portion, was a ‘mid-span failure of RCC girder, which are very old and of longer length of approximately 40 metres’. “There is no relationship of metro project construction with this mid-span failure of RCC girder of the bridge. Intact condition of piers on both ends, are clear indication of this,” he had said in a statement.
Asked to comment on the RVNL statement, Banerjee said, “They are so smart. They have immediately issued a press statement.” She said that bridge inspection and monitoring committees have been formed under the PWD, irrigation and KMDA, to inspect bridges in the state under those departments. Heavy vehicles would not be allowed to ply over the road bridges and laying of several layers of bitumen would not be allowed, while repairing roads on them. “Heavy, overloaded vehicles cause much damage to the bridges and from now on, we will not allow 20-wheel lorries to ply through the bridges,” she said adding that the police and the traffic department, have been asked to take necessary steps in this connection.
She said that there are around 20 bridges in and around the metropolis, which have crossed their expiry dates. “Twenty bridges including those at Satragachi, Ultadanga, Belgachia, Sealdah, Dhakuria and Chingrihata, have crossed their expiry dates. We have repeatedly requested the Railways to carry out restoration of the Ultadanga bridge. We have directed to carry out renovation works at these bridges slowly, by controlling the traffic movement there,” she said. Banerjee said the police have been directed to remove encroachments from under the bridges and take control of those places. In this context she asked shopkeepers to shift from under the Sealdah flyover in the city, for renovation work.
Referring to the collapse of the Vivekananda Road flyover in Burrabazar area in 2016, which had claimed 26 lives, she said that experts, whose opinions were sought on whether to bring down the bridge or to reconstruct it, could not provide an answer. “We did not get all the papers of the Vivekananda Road flyover. Still we carried out investigations into the collapse, by experts from IIT Kharagpur. Even they are unable to give us any suggestion, on how to construct the bridge again. The report we have received suggested that if we want to bring down the flyover, then, many houses needed to be demolished and that is risky. They have not given us any clearance to construct it either. So we are taking opinions of other experts in this connection,” she said.
The flyover could be constructed for light vehicles but only after clearance by technical experts. “We have sought RITES’ opinion but they have not submitted anything,” the chief minister said. Three persons were killed in the collapse of a portion of the Majerhat bridge in Alipore area, which runs over the Majerhat Railway station and connects the city centre with the heavily populated Behala, vast areas of the south-west suburbs and neighbouring South 24 Parganas district.