Initiation of reconstruction work on the Mahatma Gandhi Setu, the longest river bridge in India over Ganga river, spanning 5.57 km, linking Patna to north Bihar, is likely to be delayed in absence of an alternate route to divert traffic.
The Centre has taken up the responsibility to dismantle the superstructure and repair the bridge in 42 months, beginning January. The bridge is the lifeline connecting north and south Bihar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to launch the repair work, estimated to cost Rs 1,742 crore (approx.), on January 15. However, the programme was deferred after the Patna boat tragedy that claimed 24 lives a day earlier on Makar Sankranti.
Bihar road construction department (RCD) minister, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, has said that he would not allow the bridge to be dismantled till the Centre approved its design. However, officials said it was a formality, which could be completed even after initiation of ground work.
“Movement of vehicles on the bridge will continue as usual until alternate routes like the Digha-Sonepur and the Ara-Chapra bridges over Ganga become operational by June,” said an RCD executive engineer, quoting his minister during a recent departmental meeting to review various ongoing projects.
RCD secretary Pankaj Kumar said the department was working on war-footing to get alternate routes ready before dismantling the Setu superstructure.
“Movement of heavy vehicles on the Rajendra Setu at Mokama has resumed, while efforts are on to operationalise traffic on the Digha-Sonepur and the Ara-Chapra bridges by June,” the secretary said.
The RCD has already sanctioned construction of a couple of pontoon bridges on both sides of the Setu to divert light vehicles.
“One pontoon bridge to facilitate traffic downstream, from Hajipur to Patna, may become functional by mid-February. However, the upstream facility may take another month,” said a senior officer.
The AFCON Infrastructure Limited, tasked with reconstructing the Setu, has begun mobilising resources and manpower to commence repair work.
An AFCON functionary said repair work would be undertaken in two phases. The upstream (Patna to Hajipur) of the bridge would first be completely demolished and repaired. Then, work on the downstream would be taken up.
“Once reconstructed with triangular steel girders, vehicles can ply at 100 km per hour speed on the bridge,” he added.