The old black stone bridges in town, reminiscent of the British era, have stood Mumbaikars in good stead all these years. One of these, Hancock Bridge in the heart of South Mumbai, seems finally to be revealing the ravages that time and traffic have worked on it over the last century.
The Central Railway (CR) has asked the Mumbai traffic police and the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) to disallow movement of heavy vehicles over the bridge connecting Byculla with Mazgaon. The 134-year-old bridge has weakened with time and is in need of reinforcements. It is a measure of its tensile strength that it has continued to withstand the burden of over a century-and-a-quarter, even as its surroundings were subject to considerable changes over decades.
“The bridge is very old and has become feeble. We have asked the traffic police not to allow movement of heavy vehicles,” said a CR official on condition of anonymity. The stone bridge, situated between Sandhurst Road and Byculla railway stations, is around five metres from the tracks. It was rebuilt in 1923, and was meant as a passage for bullock carts and horse carts carrying travellers and goods. The S-shaped bridge was built on a curve as it was difficult for animals hitched to loaded carts to climb other steep bridges.
The officials from BEST said the administration had already diverted buses plying on routes 135, 42, 18, 45, 134 and 20, which until now have been passing over the Hancock Bridge. “Since a few days ago, we have diverted certain bus routes via Khada Parsi Road, as we have been asked not to ply over the Bridge,” said V Bagul, BEST spokesperson. Traffic officials confirmed that heavy vehicles have been barred from using the bridge. “The bridge has become frail and the authorities concerned will carry out repair work. Until then, heavy vehicles will be barred,” said S Nilewad, DCP (City), Mumbai Traffic Police.
Bridges from another time
In 2010, the railways had planned to raze and rebuild 15 British-era stone and iron bridges over rail lines for power upgrade
These included S-Bridge at Byculla, Hancock Bridge, Arthur Bridge, Carnac bridge, the famous Bellasis Road bridge at Mumbai Central and Tilak bridge at Dadar
This was part of power conversion from 1,500 volts to 25,000 volts right up to CST, for which the ROB must be over 5.87 metres from the overhead equipment