At Borkhedi village, 33 km from Nagpur, a railway overbridge attracts the attention of motorists due to the graffiti scrawled across the huge concrete girders lying adjacent to the bridge for over six years.
These girders have to be put in place to complete the four-laning of the bridge on NH-7 that passes over the Central Railway line. The reason the girders attract attention is the unprintable abuses written all over by unknown protesters angry over the delay.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) erases them only to be confronted with a new set of abuses.
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The NHAI had been pitted against Central Railway (CR) since 2009 over denial of permission to lay the girders mainly due to a dispute centred on the method of laying them.
While the NHAI agreement with then contractor JSR Reddy stipulated the slide-slew method (pushing the girders up with the help of a jack), CR insisted on installation by crane for “safety” reasons “since several trains pass under the bridge”.
“Our suggestion to use crane arose from safety point of view,” said Devidas Tembhurne, Senior Divisional Engineer, CR. Asked how the Railways accepted slide-slew method in earlier bridges constructed around the same time, Tembhurne said, “They may have been done using the old method, but from the safety point of view, use of crane is better.”
Even as the dispute between the two government agencies was heading nowhere, the spate of accidents on the road continues. According to records available with the Butibori police station, 14 persons have died and 10 have been injured since 2009. Superintendent of Police (Nagpur Rural) Arti Singh told The Indian Express, “The bridge has been a major headache and a centre of flashpoints due to the mishaps, some of which have even led to law and order problems. Having had enough of it, we have cautioned the highway authorities to act fast and complete the work to prevent further trouble.”
“People are angry because the authorities are least bothered about the lives being lost here. Several top officials and politicians use this road. Can’t they see how bad the situation is?” Sanjay Madavi, a resident of the local village, who has seen many people die here, says.
As the dispute got protracted, the contractor requested NHAI to foreclose the contract since the delay was leading to losses for him.The existing two-lane bridge has become a constriction between two stretches of the four-laned highway.
For most part of the year, the road, which is part of the prestigious North-South corridor, remains in a dilapidated condition virtually bringing vehicles to a slow crawl.
There was some movement after Nitin Gadkari took over as Union Surface Transport Minister.
But the NHAI found the going tough against the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) who accepted Central Railway’s demand.
A new issue cropped up after a team of experts from Visveswaraya National Institute of Technology declared two of the four girders to be unfit for installation. The Railways suggested that instead of pre-stressed concrete girders, the NHAI should opt for composite girders (I-section steel girders encapsulated in concrete), which are lightweight and easy to lift and stronger too.
The NHAI agreed to this and submitted the new design of the girders to the CRS. It is now awaits their nod.
An NHAI official said: “Finally we have submitted designs of composite girders with the CRS. We hope to get their nod soon.”The new contract has been awarded to Pathway (India) Ltd.