The Public Works Department (PWD) of West Bengal, on October 17, 2019, directed companies who have expressed interest to build a new structure in place of the arterial Tallah Bridge, to conduct soil tests before initiating any construction work, a senior official said. Surveys have revealed that the 650-metre-long rail over bridge, which has been closed to heavy vehicles for over a fortnight, is in a very critical condition. A final decision on the demolition of the 57-year-old bridge in the northern part of Kolkata is, however, yet to be taken.
As per the directive, the findings of the soil tests should be submitted to the PWD within 14 days, the official said. “Two companies have expressed interest in constructing a new bridge, in place of the old Tallah Bridge, in response to a tender floated by the PWD recently. On Thursday (October 17) the directive was issued for them to quickly conduct a soil test below the Tallah Bridge and to submit the report within 14 days,” the official said. The findings will be forwarded to chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, who is heading a committee to look into the matter, he added.
West Bengal CM to decide on fate of Tallah Bridge soon
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is likely to hold a discussion on October 12, 2019, to decide on the fate of the arterial Tallah Bridge in Kolkata, which has been identified as ‘most vulnerable’
October 11, 2019: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to take a call on whether the arterial Tallah Bridge in Kolkata, would be demolished or strengthened for the time being, following the recommendations of a team of experts, a senior official said. The report submitted to state chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, by the Mumbai-based team on October 9, 2019, recommended demolition and reconstruction of the 57-year-old bridge, reaffirming an earlier report submitted by consultancy firm RITES.
“The Mumbai-based firm has submitted its report and recommendations on the Tallah Bridge and the chief minister will hold discussions on the fate of the bridge, on October 12. She will take a call on the best possible option,” the officer said. Secretariat sources said that discussions were held by the chief secretary with other senior officials and police officers, about the options of building a new bridge or strengthening the existing one. “Discussions were also held about the possible expenditure of building a new bridge and whether the structure would be of steel or concrete,” he said.
The Tallah Bridge is one of the main gateways to enter the city, from North 24 Parganas. It was learnt that the police has been directed by the state government to chalk out alternative routes for cars, buses and goods vehicles, if the 625-metre-long bridge was pulled down.
Seven Kolkata bridges identified as ‘most vulnerable’
In the wake of the Majerhat bridge collapse on September 4, 2018, the West Bengal PWD has identified seven bridges in the city as ‘most vulnerable’ requiring urgent repairs
September 14, 2018: The West Bengal Public Works Department (PWD) has identified seven bridges in Kolkata as ‘most vulnerable’, out of 20, which, the PWD has classified as ‘distressed’ structures. The seven ‘most vulnerable’ bridges are Bijon Setu, Gouribari Aurobindo Setu, Belgachhia bridge, Tollygunge Circular Road bridge, Dhakuria bridge, Tallah bridge and Santragachi bridge, a senior PWD official said.
“Load-bearing capacities of these bridges were carried out and depending on that report, we have suggested to the police to impose restriction on goods-carrying vehicles, to prevent further deterioration of the condition of the distressed structures,” he said. The Kolkata Police has already banned the movement of all goods vehicles on the first four bridges and is exploring the possibility of whether a similar decision can be taken for the remaining ones, a senior officer of Kolkata Traffic Police said.
However, overloaded vehicles are still plying on the bridges, especially at night, leading to traffic snarls, following which the trucks are stranded on the structures, which might lead to another mishap, the PWD official said.
The PWD is preparing a detailed budget and a plan for immediately taking up the repair work of the seven bridges, the official said. The department is also carrying out inspection of the remaining 13 bridges, including Dhakuria bridge, Tallah bridge, Sukanta Setu and Santragachchi bridge, following which they will either be labelled as ‘vulnerable or relatively safe’. “Inspection is being carried to test the load-bearing capacity of Dhakuria bridge and Tallah bridge, so that a decision can be taken on the type of vehicles whose movements may be restricted,” the PWD official said.
A team of officials from the state PWD department has carried out separate surveys at Sukanta Setu connecting Jadavpur with Santoshpur and at the Karunamoyee bridge linking Tollygunge to Haridevpur. “Sukanta Setu has developed cracks in some places and requires repair work. However, there is a need of a survey of the structure, to ascertain the extent of damage,” he said. Talking about the Santragachhi bridge, the PWD official said that the ‘poor condition’ of the bridge was a cause of worry.
“Santragachhi bridge is a vital bridge but a recent survey suggests that it requires immediate repair on urgent basis. We think we must have a separate plan for Santragachhi bridge, because it is used by several hundreds of trucks bringing in supply to the city and the suburbs,” he said.
Talking about the Sealdah bridge, the PWD official said that the government was working on options for shifting the shopkeepers to some other locations, before starting ‘immediate’ restoration work there.
“Sealdah bridge is a crucial one in the city, which also immediately requires urgent repairs. However, markets and shops need to be shifted first, before we start carrying out the renovation and restoration works,” the official pointed out.
Talking about the budget for carrying out the repair works at these bridges, the official hinted that it could run into several crores, because the restoration work would differ from bridge to bridge. After estimating the cost, the state government would float a tender and it would be done in ‘a very short time’, the official added. On whether the bridges were maintained properly or there were lapses on the part of the government, the official said, “People have forgotten that bridges have a shelf life and require regular monitoring, apart from auditing and maintenance. These critical parts were ignored and hence, bridges have reached such a structurally distressed state.” Three persons were killed while 24 others injured in the September 4, 2018 collapse of a portion of Majerhat bridge, which connects the city centre with the heavily populated Behala, vast areas of the south-west suburbs and neighbouring South 24 Parganas district.