A bridge ‘unfit’ for heavy vehicles lies in Donald Trump’s route to Agra

Updated on Feb 19, 2020 11:56 PM IST

The overbridge was declared unfit for heavy vehicles about eight months ago by the PWD, and the US President is supposed to cross it in a 70-vehicle cavalcade on the way to Taj Mahal on February 24 evening with First Lady Melania Trump.

US President Donald Trump is arriving in India on 24 February on a two-day visit. He is expected to travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.(AP)
US President Donald Trump is arriving in India on 24 February on a two-day visit. He is expected to travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.(AP)
Hindustan Times, Agra | By

The Uttar Pradesh government is pulling out all stops to give a facelift to Agra ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit, but a railway overbridge (ROB) in the route of the presidential cavalcade is a cause of concern for the officials at the moment.

Barely a kilometre from the Kheria airport, the overbridge at the centre of the concern was declared unfit for heavy vehicles about eight months ago by the PWD, and the US President is supposed to cross it in a 70-vehicle cavalcade on the way to Taj Mahal on February 24 evening with First Lady Melania Trump.

It is learnt that Trump and Melania will travel in their armoured car named Beast, weighing around 6.5 tonnes, which might exceed the parameter for light vehicles, said officials.

ALSO WATCH | Agra bridge being renovated for US President Trump’s 70-car cavalcade

“We have informed the Agra administration about this and the final decision on the route selection rests with them. On our part, we have initiated the process for repairing the bridge, for which sanction has been sought. Work will start after the sanction,” said Yogesh Pawar, superintending engineer, PWD.

Commissioner (Agra Division) Anil Kumar said the US advance teams were informed about the bridge.

“Details about the route to be taken, including this RoB, have been given to the advance teams. But experts from the US have not raised any objection regarding its capacity,” stated Kumar.

Officials associated with VVIP visits to Taj maintain that most of the time, foreign government guests travel to the Taj Mahal in vehicles provided by the Indian government unless security advisors bring their own vehicle.

“During his visit in 2000, Bill Clinton had travelled from the airport to Taj Mahal in his own car (Beast). This car, along with his cavalcade, entered the forecourt of the Taj premises,” recalled a retired government official.

Clinton had been to Taj twice, first as president with his daughter Chelsea in March 2000, when his Beast crossed the RoB and then as an ex-President two years later, when he was driven in a specially prepared battery-operated bus.

Restriction on vehicles on Taj premises

In 1998, the Supreme Court had restricted movement of petrol/diesel-run vehicles within 500 metres radius of the Taj. Since then VVIPs mostly opt for specially prepared battery-operated bus while some take a golf cart.

While the then US President Barack Obama’s visit to Taj was cancelled at the eleventh hour in 2015 due to the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in January 2015, the issue of permission to Beast to enter Taj Mahal’s forecourt had arisen even then.

Officials in Agra are tight-lipped over the vehicles that will be used by VVIPs when they enter the Taj Mahal but superintending archaeologist (Agra circle), ASI, Vasant Swarankar says the Supreme Court’s guidelines will be complied with.

“The issue about the vehicle in which VVIPs enter the Taj premises is something to be looked at by the Agra administration,” said Swarankar.

The Agra Development Authority has prepared a well-furnished battery-operated bus which can be an option for the VVIP guests to enter Taj Mahal premises. However, there is no confirmation on its deployment on February 24.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Hemendra Chaturvedi is based in Agra serving as a Principal Correspondent, covering districts of Agra and Aligarh division of western Uttar Pradesh. He has been with HT since 1992 and has completed 25 year of association with HT.

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