The unique Scherzer’s Span of the 100-year-old Pamban Bridge has attained its service life and will need to be replaced for the future sustainability of the historic structure, according to E. Sreedharan, the man who fashioned the Delhi Metro, the Konkan Railway and led a record restoration of the cantilever bridge after it was devastated in a 1964 cyclone.
“As the bridge is situated in a marine environment there is corrosion of the steel girders and they require periodic replacement...perhaps even replacement of steel with pre-stressed concrete.
The Scherzer’s has completed its life span and we need to evolve another suitable cantilever structure that will allow ships to pass under the rail bridge,” Mr. Sreedharan told the media.
Mr. Sreedharan, who is Principal Adviser, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, was here to launch a souvenir and a photo exhibition to mark the valedictory of month-long centenary celebrations of the Pamban Bridge hosted by the Southern Railway.
“I am thrilled to see these photographs…nostalgic memories come rushing back,” said the man who had 49 years back led a team of railway engineers, inspectors and a group of ‘Mappila Khilasis’ (a community in Kerala once famous for using pulleys to move massive structures) to restore the cyclone-ravaged Pamban Bridge that served as a conduit across Palk Strait to then Ceylon---by rail up to Dhanushkodi and by boat from there to Talaimannar.
Such was the extent of the damage that “there was no sign of the bridge” and only a few piers stuck out from the sea though the Scherzer’s Span miraculously survived the tidal waves. Racing against a six-month deadline by the Railways, Mr. Sreedharan’s team completed the feat in a record time of 46 days. “Now, as I look back, I wonder how we managed to achieve the feat,” he mused. It was a triumph of team work and helped by the freedom given by the Railways to innovate _ such as salvaging the girders lost in the sea _ and absence of any cap on expenditure.
It is little wonder that for someone who regards the assignment as “divine dispensation” that the restoration of the Pamban Bridge remains the project closest to his heart.