The old Harbour bridge at Thoppumpady is proving to be a risky ride for motorists. Many accidents have occurred atop the bridge as two-wheelers trip on the loose iron sheets protruding on its surface.
The bridge between Willingdon Island and Thoppumpady is used only by two-wheelers after the new bridge was opened parallel to the Harbour bridge. The more than 70-year-old bridge was declared a heritage monument last year when city and district authorities vowed to preserve the bridge. The bridge, built with British assistance, could originally be drawn up to let ships pass.
“Minor accidents happen almost daily on the bridge. Drivers have to be very careful when going over the protruding edge of the iron sheets. Those unfamiliar with the bridge may lose control of their vehicles when they come to the edge,” said a police officer from the Harbour police station.
The rotting wooden planks and rusty bolts on the central portion of the bridge also worry frequent travellers along the route. “A rare, excellent quality wood was used on the bridge. If maintained well, the bridge can be used for many more years,” said Benedict Fernandez, councillor of Island South division.
Streetlights were installed on the bridge after several complaints from motorists about the risk of accidents on the ill-maintained bridge at night. Its surface, however, continues to be dangerous.
“Nothing has been done till this day. We are ready to give funds to begin maintenance work on the bridge. It is a part of Kochi’s heritage and has to be protected,” said Mr. Fernandez.
Several plans for the upkeep of the bridge were mooted when it was declared a heritage monument, including a plan to construct a hotel on top of the bridge. The plans to tar the surface and remove the rotting wooden boards, however, are yet to take off. Sources said the Public Works Department obtained the administrative sanction to tar the bridge last month. The department had submitted an estimate of Rs.76 lakh for undertaking the maintenance works on the bridge.
Meanwhile, the Kochi Punarnirmana Samithi, a forum which represents the islanders, will observe a ‘black day’ in Fort Kochi on Saturday demanding the repair of the Harbour bridge and the potholed roads in the area that were built with a five-year guarantee.