2014 Railway check on Andheri bridge had pointed out flaws
Could the Railways have averted the July 3 Gokhale bridge collapse that killed two and injured three? Yes, had the Railways taken note of its own four-year-old findings in the bridge register.
On October 20, 2014, the section in-charge of bridges had noticed and reported the problems, deterioration and unsatisfactory condition of the cantilever portion in the pedestrian pathway of the bridge. On November 17, 2015, the divisional engineer of Western Railway (WR) ordered compliance to tackle the deterioration pointed out in the report, but did not question why no work was undertaken in one year after the condition was reported. Four years passed by, with minimal action and the WR having no records of any inspection to check if the problems were fixed. All these findings eventually found a mention in Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) report on the collapse.
A copy of the report prepared by Sushil Chandra, CRS, of Western circuit, stated, “The section in-charge of bridges, on October 20,2014, mentioned the unsatisfactory condition of the cantilever portion. Steel brackets of cantilever portion of the pathway were perforated and pitted. The assistant divisional engineer suggested polymer plaster on the reinforcement exposed under the deck slab to strengthen the brackets from ongoing works and to fix the cracks over the west span (sic).”
Hindustan Times has a copy of the report. “There was no evidence on action taken on perforated and pitted steel brackets observed by section in-charge of the bridge as per bridge inspection register. There was no mention of any such action in the documents submitted by the railways,” mentioned the report.
After the collapse of the Kokhra road overbridge in Ahmedabad, a special drive was launched in October 2015 to inspect all bridges. The CRS said the Railways had noticed the deteriorating condition of the structure in that drive too. “Concrete girder is corroded on the surface over the harbour railway lines,” stated the report.
Moreover, the inspection carried on April 4, 2018 by section in-charge of bridges, too, had a mention of the corrosion and deteriorating condition of the bridge.
“The section in-charge again mentioned that outside girder was very rusty. He also stated that during inquiry, he had noticed heavy corrosion and perforations on some of the pathway brackets,” stated the report.
Based on the 200-page report, the WR took action on five railway officials and imposed penalties. “Charge sheets were issued to officials and penalties were imposed after evaluating the report. The penalties ranged from stopping of increment to demotion,” said a senior western railway official.
The report has fixed the responsibility on section in-charge of bridges, assistant divisional engineer and divisional engineer. “The pitting and perforations were detected 45 months before the collapse of the ROB. Absence of any action suggests serious negligence by officials,” stated the report.
The CRS also raised questions on the inspection conducted by the divisional engineer on September 22, 2017.
“He stated he saw corrosion only in visible portion of brackets during his inspection. In fact, many brackets had deep corrosion in the bottom, which was very much visible. It is clear that he did not inspect the pathway properly,” it stated.