With BMC trying to apportion part of blame for the Gokhale Road bridge fiasco, Western Railway explains to mid-day how the claims are not entirely true, adds that portion it is responsible for is fully safe
Western Railway said it has been regularly maintaining the portion that runs over the tracks
The Western Railway on Thursday said that the railway portion of the Gokhale Bridge was safe and sound as per the latest IIT audit reports and that there was no danger about it to run trains. The WR has been consistently monitoring and repairing the portion above tracks since national and local rail traffic passes below it 24x7.
“The railway portion is structurally fine and safe and sound and there is no danger about it. Hence the railways are able to run train services without any hassle,” Western Railway Mumbai Divisional Railway Manager Neeraj Verma told Mid-Day.
The closure of Gokhale bridge in Andheri has created a traffic nightmare. Pic/Nimesh Dave
So, what does exactly BMC mean when it says the bridge is dangerous? Here’s a breakdown of which part of the bridge has been dilapidated and declared dangerous in the latest audit as per field engineers and officials.
The Gopal Krishna Gokhale Bridge elevated approach roads intersect Sahar Road (where Andheri east skywalk meets it) in the east and the Bharucha Road in the west. Between these two intersections, the Gokhale bridge also passes over the railway lines. It is these approaches that need repairs.
After the collapse and repairs, the elevated approaches of the bridge were opened for public in 2019 after giving additional supports and an inspection mandated every six months by BMC consultants and audit team. In September 2022 inspection by the BMC consultants and audit team, there were some movements and gaps observed in the support of approaches roads which made the bridge dangerously unsafe. Since the new work may take two to three years, it was decided to close the entire bridge.
Also Read: Mumbai: Gokhale bridge to come up in 2 phases
“Both approach roads of the Gokhale bridge are in dilapidated conditions and cannot carry load of traffic. As per the updated guidelines, the height of bridge over road has to be more than 8 meters. Currently, the approach bridge is 6.5 metres above the road so the middle portion over the railway tracks has to be demolished and construct as per the new design," BMC’s Deputy Municipal Commissioner Ulhas Mahale said.
There is hardly a two-to-three-hour block on railways, and it is difficult to demolish the portion after setting up machinery every night. Besides, if any portion of the bridge collapses on the tracks, then who will take responsibility? Railways have the expertise, and we are ready to pay them the cost, said a BMC official.
As far as the railways are concerned, after the collapse of the cantilever footpath in July 2018, railways undertook a safety audit of the bridge with the help of IIT Mumbai and major repairs and strengthening were identified and undertaken in four phases.
The first set of railway repairs and strengthening above tracks was done between September 2018 and January 2019 and the south carriageway (Dadar-end) of the bridge was opened for traffic on 19th January 2019 after clearing debris from both approach ends.
One of the elevated approaches to the railway portion of the Gokhale bridge. These approaches have become dangerous
Subsequent phase two railway repairs as per IIT audit in June 2019 involved dismantling of 3.3m wide cantilever old slab on both south and north carriageway, at a cost of Rs. 3.34 crore which included replacement of corroded steel brackets supporting slab, casting new slab and crash barrier and providing stainless steel fencing.
“While carrying out this work, special care had been taken in respect of durability of structure by choice of materials like using stainless steel which is corrosion resistant and design detailing like reduced cantilever, rich concrete mix and lesser inaccessible parts making inspections easier,” a WR engineer said.
The third set of repairs above the railway portion was done in December 2019 after yet another IIT audit and the bridge was closed temporarily for a night for repairing and load testing of pre-stressed concrete (PSC) girders of the bridge. This time, the girders were repaired and strengthened.
The fourth set of strengthening and repairs of the PSC girders was done in January 2020. This made the railway portions extensively safer.
Day from when the bridge was shut for motorists