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Mumbai bridge collapse: No lessons learnt? Report asked WR to audit all overbridges 3 years ago

Three years ago, in an incident similar to Tuesday’s bridge collapse at Andheri, a portion of a road overbridge came crashing down on railway tracks in Ahmedabad in October 2015.

mumbai Updated: Jul 05, 2018 01:04 IST
Mumba bridge collapse,Mumbai rain,andheri bridge
Workers clear debris a day after the Andheri bridge collapse, on Wednesday.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

Three years ago, in an incident similar to Tuesday’s bridge collapse at Andheri, a portion of a road overbridge came crashing down on railway tracks in Ahmedabad in October 2015.

That bridge was more than 50 years old, and an inquiry ordered soon after recommended a drive to inspect all overbridges on the Western Railways — which includes the Churchgate-Dahanu suburban sections, as well as other railway networks in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and a part of Madhya Pradesh.

Despite this recommendation, Western Railway does not seem to have learnt its lesson. Tuesday’s collapse in Mumbai injured five people and paralysed train services the whole day. Investigators are now looking into whether the weight of 60 utility cables laid under the three-metre wide bridge affected its stability.

Interestingly, the report written after the Ahmedabad incident in 2015 had also asked the WR to remove unauthorised cables passing under overbridges.

“Unauthorised cables laid and passing through ROB/FOB should be identified and removed /regularised duly, after recovery of charges, as per extent rules,” the report had said.

Had the Railways and BMC, which conducted a safety audit of the Andheri bridge last year, looked into the recommendations of the 2015 report and acted on it, the collapse could have been prevented, a senior official said, requesting not to be named.

However, AK Gupta, the general manager of the Western Railway, said: “Drives for checking bridges are done on a regular basis. After the October 2015 incident, there might have been a drive definitely conducted.” Other officials from the WR said utility cables may have affected the bridge’s stability, and other factors may have caused it further damage.

“The paver blocks, along with cables that went through the bridge, may have added extra weight on it. Water in the paver blocks and inside the structure could have resulted in corrosion of structure, which may have caused the collapse,” said a senior WR official, adding that the exact reason can only be ascertained after a probe.

As the BMC and Railways engage in a blame game, other experts pointed out that the structural damage may have gone unnoticed as the two bodies are responsible for different types of maintenance. “The structural part of the bridge is maintained by the Railways, but the surface of the bridge is maintained by the civic body. Once water seeps through the bridge it leads to corrosion in the steel foundation. During inspection, the outer structure might have looked fine, but the insides may have corroded,” said Subodh Jain, a retired senior railway officer and former member, engineering railway board.

Union railway minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday announced a detailed study of 445 bridges including road over bridges, bridges crossing the railway tracks and any infrastructure which is close to the tracks.

First Published: Jul 05, 2018 01:04 IST