Lower Parel bridge collapse: Documents show civic bodies knew about 'over-aged' bridge
Documents show how civic body and railways knew well that 'over-aged' Delisle Road bridge had to be fully rebuilt
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Western Railway (WR) did not need a bridge collapse, two deaths, an audit and shutting down of several road overbridges (ROBs) to realise that some of the city's most crucial ROBs were in desperate need of repairs. This is a fact they have known since 2015 — according to letters exchanged between BMC and WR, accessed by mid-day — but all they have chosen to do is continue their correspondence and blame one another.
The correspondence regarding the ROBs began on November 5, 2015, when WR responded to BMC's letter, stating that six ROBs, namely Frere Road, Belasis Road, Mahalaxmi, Delisle Road, Carol Bridge and Tilak Bridge were under the process of being re-girdered and that BMC was supposed to deposit a sum of Rs 80.53 crore for the same. The civic body responded in November 2016, saying that considering the bridges had completed their codal life, they should be reconstructed instead. BMC said it would bear the costs for the same and requested WR to 'take up the immediate necessary steps for reconstruction of above ROBs' and 'initiate P.E. [plan and estimate] charges against each bridge, so MCGM [BMC] can deposit the same'.
BMC later also took up the issue at joint meetings, but returned without any response. WR's reply on March 2018 stated they would be floating tenders for appointment of consultants for all six bridges. The consultants had met WR in July. After this year's Andheri bridge collapse, WR said they won't do the repairs and BMC should undertake the reconstruction of the bridges, according to BMC officials. WR said the allegations are untrue and there has been no delay from their side. They claim the previous discussion was about repairs, but it is now about reconstruction.
BMC and WR have been corresponding about the road overbridges since November 2015. The letters, that begin with discussion of repairing the ROBs that have gone past their expiration date, later became about reconstructing them entirely
Follow the law
BMC's chief engineer (bridges) Shitalprasad O Kori told mid-day, "This is confusing. If you read the detailed correspondence, we have been following up since 2015 and WR has been dilly-dallying. Then suddenly one day, they say that BMC should take over and build the bridges. Then what were the earlier estimates for? As per the Section 17 and 19 of the Railways Act 1989, the responsibility of the railway portion lies with the railways, and they should follow the law of the land."
"They are...unnecessarily delaying the issue. To put things on record, I will be writing to the railway higher-ups with all the detailed correspondence on how WR has been dealing with the issue. WR's idea is to dismantle the bridge, so the city will be forced to take decision and BMC will be asked to rebuild the bridge." Regarding the consultants, Kori said, "When the consultants actually came in July, WR said they had been called to enhance the technical knowledge of the railways team and had nothing to do with the reconstruction of bridges, which is laughable."
Can't have two sets
Responding to BMC's allegations, WR's chief public relations officer (PRO), Ravinder Bhakar said, "When a bridge is to be rebuilt, several issues like crowd and traffic management, diversions, removal of encroachments, etc, arise. In addition to this, there are several utility cables and pipelines for which permission/coordination is required with various government departments. Thus, BMC is the best body in the position to do this. Moreover, the abutment portion of the [Lower Parel] bridge will be entirely on 110-140 sq m of BMC land over the railway tracks."
WR also said they've told BMC to remove all kinds of utility cables, manage drain water on the Lower Parel ROB, and reminded the civic body that owes them money for maintenance. Bhakar added, "Section 17 of the Railways Act clearly states work can be undertaken with the railways' agreement and railways is willing to help with design, launching scheme planning and facilitating the construction. In fact, we'll form a dedicated team solely for the project, which can take decisions and not hinder the work process at any level.
About the consultants, Bhakar said, "The consultants were called so we could understand the latest design and reconstruction processes. The Lower Parel ROB is at an angle of 65 degrees skew to the railway line, which makes it a very complicated design. [Besides] BMC is already building bridges like Hancock, and one city cannot have two sets of laws."
WR floats tender
WR is going to float a tender on August 1 for R7.3 crore to dismantle the Lower Parel ROB. The tender will open in 14 days, after which the process of demolition would begin. It will take three months to dismantle the entire bridge as it has a very complicated design.
Report by Prof Pradipta Banerjee IIT Bombay on Lower Parel ROB said:
> There is significant corrosion, resulting in loss of load carrying capacity and significant damage at junctions between girders.
> Corrosion is maximum at junction of footpath and road where water collects at the top and drips down.
> Significant loaded traffic moves on the bridge and there is a possibility that a collapse may occur in the short term.
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