Kolkata’s iconic Howrah Bridge is likely to get an overhaul and health audit so that the longevity of the 80-year-old structure can be increased. Apart from the regular maintenance of the structure, the scrapping of the old mastic of the Howrah Bridge, which connects the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata over river Hooghly, has already started this month.
Rathendra Raman, the chairperson of the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port (SPMP), Kolkata, that maintains the structure, said on May 24 that experts from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai’s National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC) had been engaged for the health checkup of the structure. Engineers at the SPMP pointed out that the experts were on the field and the health of the entire structure from the top to the bottom was being evaluated.
“They [the experts] will suggest what measures should be taken to improve the life span of the Howrah Bridge. We all know that heavy vehicles have been shifted to Vidyasagar Setu, still the Howrah Bridge remains a major means of connectivity, particularly to the Howrah Station. Therefore, the importance of Howrah Bridge will continue to be there,” an official of the SPMP said. The last time such an elaborate exercise was conducted was in the 1990s and the process was carried on till 2003. The vehicular transport will not be affected during the exercise, the SPMP chairperson said. Construction of the balanced cantilever Howrah Bridge started in 1935 and was completed in 1942.
Bascule bridge overhaul
Mr. Raman said the SPMP was also trying an overhaul of the bascule bridge, another engineering marvel which sits on top of a narrow creek that allows ships and barges from the Hooghly to enter the Kidderpore dock. The cost of the overhaul would be around ₹71 crore, he said. Mr. Raman, who recently took charge of the 153-year-old institution, said the port made a financial turnaround in 2018-19 with a net surplus of ₹65.13 crore and the net surplus increased to ₹304.07 crore in the year 2022-23. The cargo handling of the port increased by 12.87% and increased to 65.66 million metric tonnes, he added.
On the future plans, Mr. Raman said the port complex comprising Haldia and Kolkata ports would increase the cargo handling to 130 million metric tonnes by 2023 and develop itself as a green port.