The British-era Howrah Bridge, Kolkata’s iconic landmark that serves as a crucial gateway for the eastern metropolis and ferries hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day, is getting a fresh coat of paint after eight years.

The steel behemoth, also known as Rabindra Setu, which forms the crucial connect between the bustling eastern metropolis and Howrah district over the Hooghly river, is getting spruced up with a whopping 26,000 litres of lead-free paint.

“This is a routine paint job which is done after 5 – 6 years. The last time it was painted in 2005. The National Test House officials will check the quality of the paint, the thickness...and other crucial parameters,” said Chief Engineer A.K. Mehera of Kolkata Port Trust – the body responsible for maintenance of the bridge.

The 26,500-tonne structure, which finds mention in Rudyard Kipling’s works, was commissioned in 1943 replacing a pontoon bridge linking the two towns. It was the fourth longest cantilever suspension bridge in the world at that time.

Stretching for 2,150 feet and rising up to 280 feet from its foundation, the ‘Gateway to Kolkata’ ranks as the sixth longest bridge of its type in the world.

As the structure is exposed to environmental factors like pollution and weather changes, the first part of the mammoth job involves getting rid of the rust and old paint.

“This is followed by a primer which has anti-corrosive properties. Then aluminium paint will be applied for further protection, following which the final rubber-based paint will be applied...the shade will be steel, as before,” he said.