Bridge collapse: Bihar moves to scrap contract with construction firm, blacklist it

By, Patna
Jun 05, 2023 10:01 PM IST

The bridge, sixth on the Ganga to connect northern Bihar with the southern, was to link Khagaria and Bhagalpur districts in Bihar and significantly reduce travel time in the larger region.

A day after the collapse of the under-construction Aguanighat-Sultanganj bridge on river Ganga, the Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam Limited (BRPNNL) on Monday initiated the process of terminating contract with the construction firm, SP Singla Construction Pvt Ltd, following a decision of the state’s road construction department (RCD) decision, officials familiar with the matter said.

Portion of under-construction Aguanighat-Sultanganj bridge collapses on Sunday. (HT Photo)
Portion of under-construction Aguanighat-Sultanganj bridge collapses on Sunday. (HT Photo)

A part of the 3.11-km-long four-lane bridge, being constructed at a cost of 1,710.12 crore since 2014, collapsed on Sunday evening. A purported video of the crash, shot by locals, has been circulating on the social media.

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The bridge, sixth on the Ganga to connect northern Bihar with the southern, was to link Khagaria and Bhagalpur districts in Bihar and significantly reduce travel time in the larger region.

RCD officials said they had suspected design trouble behind crash of the bridge, another portion of the which had caved in April last year also.

At a hurriedly convened press conference soon after the bridge collapse, additional chief secretary (RCD) Pratyaya Amrit had announced that the department would blacklist the firm and take all legal action to compensate for the damage. “We will not compromise on quality of construction or deficiency in design. Entire process for construction of the bridge would be started afresh and tender would be floated soon to hire another construction company,” he said.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar said Monday that he had directed the officials to take stern action against those responsible for the mishap after inquiry. “I laid its foundation stone in 2014. I wonder why this is taking too much time to complete. I had suspected some flaws in the bridge when its portion on the Sultanganj side had collapsed last year and directed the officials to act,” said the CM.

Deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who also holds the RCD portfolio, said he had questioned the quality of the bridge as the opposition leader when it suffered its first crash in April 2022. “Soon after the collapse of pier no 5, we had ordered demolition of the segment and reconstruction of the pillar. Additionally, we had engaged experts from IIT-Roorkee in November last year to examine the causes of partial damage of the bridge. Their preliminary report had hinted about design faults and stressed comprehensive technical overhaul of the entire structure,” said Yadav.

The deputy CM said that as the RCD minister, he had decided to demolish the entire bridge structure and its reconstruction after two MLAs had questioned its vulnerability. “The final report of IIT-Roorkee is still awaited,” he said.

Meanwhile, former RCD minister and BJP leader Nitin Nabin wondered as to why the government allowed the construction company to carry on with the construction when the experts had found serious structural flaws. “Tejashwi Prasad Yadav must be hiding the truth…he is not revealing the facts,” said Nabin.

He also asked why the deputy CM took so much time to decide to demolish the entire structure after the bridge collapsed, even though he did not highlight anything wrong with the construction during his reply in the House as RCD minister.

Former deputy CM and Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi also countered Yadav for changing his tone after the disaster. “Why did he give clean chit to the construction company in the Assembly when there was fault in design of the bridge,” he asked.

Later, taking to Twitter, Yadav said the RCD was being headed by BJP leaders like Nand Kishore Yadav, Mangal Pandey and Nitin Nabin when the work of the bridge was awarded to the construction company and when the bridge met with its first disaster.

Amid the claims and counterclaims, an engineer of the RCD said the way the bridge collapsed apparently hinted at the flaw in the design and not the quality of construction. “The bridge would have come down bit by bit had there been any compromise in quality of construction. It was fault in the design that let to sudden collapse,” he said.

Amrit and managing director of the BRPNNL Neeraj Saxena could not reached for their comment despite repeated efforts.

IIT- Roorkee had detected design flaws

Preliminary inquiry reports submitted by IIT-Roorkee experts had suggested design fault in the pre-stressed concrete technique based extradoze-cable supported bridge, which had the longest cantilever balanced spans (550 metres) in the country. The institute, considered best for such constructions, was tasked by RCD in November last year to probe partial bridge collapse in April 2022 at Sultanganj end. The initial report said that spans attached with pier no 5, which supposedly dislocated and fell down allegedly under the impact of heavy rains and strong windy condition, required critical examination for design. “It required to study the entire design to understand the forces and stresses on all components of the final system and during the construction stages,” the initial report said. Officials said they were still awaiting final inquiry report from IIT-Roorkee.


2012: RCD told to prepare plans to build the bridge

March 10, 2014: Tender floated to appoint construction firm

June 2014: SP Singla construction Ltd selected as lowest bidder and gets work order

March 9, 2015: Construction begins

November 2019: Initial deadline to complete

April 30, 2022: Bridge met with 1st disaster as span collapses near Sultanganj

November 2022: IIT- Roorkee engaged to probe the damage

June 4, 2023: Four spans along with pillar crash in water towards Khagaria side

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    Subhash Pathak is special correspondent of Hindustan Times with over 15 years of experience in journalism, covering issues related to governance, legislature, police, Maoism, urban and road infrastructure of Bihar and Jharkhand.

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