Alarming fissures force evacuation of century-old Railway building

One of the city’s stately bricks-and-mortar heritage structures, with an old steam engine emerging from a tunnel as its front piece, has developed massive cracks in the last week owing to the ongoing Namma Metro work in the vicinity.

The building, more than a century old, is near the City Railway Station and houses the Supervisors’ Training Centre (STC) — formerly the Indian Railways’ Systems Technical School — which became functional on September 16, 1957. The STC is the only centre offering training to running and mechanical staff of South Western Railway (SWR) and Southern Railway (SR).

Now, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) is constructing an underground pocket track using a cut-and-cover method for the East-West corridor of Phase 1 of Namma Metro very close to the STC building.

Sources in the SWR told The Hindu that thin cracks were observed in the walls close to the worksite some five days ago.

BMRCL had, in fact, claimed that once the worksite was restored after construction of the pocket track, it would be solid enough to build a three-storey structure there. However, it turns out that even during the process of earth excavation for the track, the existing building has come under threat.

The cracks have now opened up further, up to two inches wide in some places, posing a grave threat to the heritage structure. At one place, there is even the danger of roof collapse. The building has already been evacuated, and the STC is now functioning from temporary premises, sources said.

Taking stock

SWR’s Bangalore Divisional Railway Manager Anil Kumar Agarwal told The Hindu he was in touch with BMRCL, which had assured him of all possible action to protect the building. He said SWR and BMRCL may have to undertake a joint survey after the completion of the pocket track work to assess the nature of damage and the possibility of the building’s restoration.

BMRCL spokesperson B.L. Yashavanth Chavan said BMRCL had been monitoring the situation and probing the cause for the damage. Conservation architect Pankaj Modi, though not familiar of the STC building, said heritage buildings built of bricks and mortar could be restored.

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