Railways have prepared an estimate for Rs.19 lakh
It is almost a month since a barge crashed into the century-old Pamban rail bridge on January 13, forcing the railways to dismantle the 121st pier. Yet work on construction of a new pier is yet to begin. The Kolkota-based Titagarh Marine, which owned the barge, is negotiating with the railways to remove the barge and tug boat, presently anchored in the Rameswaram port.
The tug boat, towing the barge from Kolkota to hand it over to the Indian Navy in Karwar, was waiting to cross the rail bridge when the barge crashed into the bridge after anchor failure. The Southern Railway ‘detained’ the vessels, stating that they would allow them to pass through the bridge only if it paid a compensation of Rs 1.5 crore towards damage.
After the pier suffered damage, the railways suspended train services between Mandapam and Rameswaram Island for a week and resumed them on January 20 after the railway engineers dismantled the damaged pier and erected two temporary piers.
When train services were resumed, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) A.K. Rastogi had said that the railways would construct a permanent pier within a month. However, the construction of the new pier is yet to begin. Sources said the railways have prepared an estimate for Rs.19 lakh and sent it for the approval of the Chief Bridge Engineer in Chennai. After he gave the nod, the Railways would hand over the work to a private contractor, either through short term tender or through counter offer, the sources said. The delay in the construction of the permanent pier was a matter of concern as six pairs of trains pass through the bridge every day, six pairs thrice a week and three pairs once a week. The DRM, when contacted, said, “We will take up the work shortly.”
Meanwhile, Titagarh Marine was holding talks with the railway authorities to get a no objection certificate (NOC) and take the tug boat and barge to Karwar. The barge and tug boat were anchored at the Rameswaram port, ever since they were salvaged on January 13 and January 27 respectively. They could cross the bridge only if it was issued the NOC by the Tamil Nadu Railway Police (TNRP), the sources said.
As Titagarh Wagons, the parent company of Titagarh Marine, supplied wagons to the railways and defence, negotiations were going on at the top level and the company was expected to strike a deal with the railways shortly, the sources said. “We will get the NOC at any time,” Lahiri, company representative told The Hindu over phone from Kolkota.
The company was also facing a court case as the TNRP had filed a criminal case against the captain of the tug boat and seaman under Section 151 of Indian Railways Act for damaging railway property.
The two, who were arrested on February 1, were presently on conditional bail and appearing before the TNRP, Rameswaram, daily and signing the register as per the condition. The case is pending before the Judicial Magistrate Court, Rameswaram.