India’s first cantilever bridge across the Palk Strait, connecting the mainland with the Rameswaram Island, suffered damage after the barge, crashed into the bridge in January.

The Tamil Nadu Railway Police (TNRP) has completed the investigation into the crashing of a barge into the 100-year-old Pamban rail bridge in January and is all set to file the charge sheet against the five accused, including the Captain of the barge and the then Pamban port conservator, in the case.

India’s first cantilever bridge across the Palk Strait, connecting the mainland with the Rameswaram Island, suffered damage after the barge, owned by Kolkotta-based Titagarh Marine crashed into the bridge after anchor failure.

A tug boat was towing the barge from Kolkotta for handing it over to the Indian Navy in Karwar, when the mishap occurred on January 13. The barge was salvaged on the same day but train services remained suspended for a week following damage to one of the piers.

After the TNRP registered a FIR, C.Vellaiyan, Deputy Superintendent of Police, TNRP, Madurai Division took up the investigation and completed it recently, holding the Captain of the vessel responsible for the mishap and decided to include the then Pamban port conservator as one of the five accused in the charge sheet.

“We have completed the investigation and written to the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board to include the then Pamban port conservator as an accused in the case. After getting the clearance from the board, the charge sheet will be filed before the Judicial Magistrate Court, Rameswaram,” he told The Hindu. Apart from the Captain and the port conservator, the vessel Engineer, seaman and the agent of Titagarh Marine are also being charged in the case, he said.

Investigations revealed that there has been slackness on the part of the Captain and the crew leading to the mishap, Mr. Vellaiyan said adding the then Pamban port conservator (who has been transferred to Kannyakumari after the incident) was equally responsible for the mishap as he “had played the role of the agent” and tried in vain to remove the vessel before it rammed into the bridge, he said.

After registering the case in January, the TNRP took possession of the barge and arrested the Captain and seaman. However, it later handed over the barge to Titagarh Marine on the order of the JM court Rameswaram. The Captain and seaman were also released on bail.

Meanwhile, the Madurai Division of the Southern Railway claimed damages to the tune of Rs. 1.5 crore and denied permission to the tug boat and barge to pass through the bridge without paying the compensation. The row between Titagarh Marine and Southern Railway took a dramatic turn with the company taking out the barge via Sri Lanka in March. The matter pertaining to the compensation was pending before the Madurai bench of the Madras High court.

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