John L. Paul
PWD constructing the bridge using State funds
KOCHI: The Cochin Port Trust and Indian Navy, the main beneficiaries of the new bridge being built parallel to the Venduruthy Bridge, are reluctant to pool their funds for the construction.
The work on the bridge now hinges on the Public Works Department (PWD-Roads and Bridges).
The PWD began work on the bridge in December 2004, a few months after Kamal XXVIII, a dredger deployed by the port trust damaged it. The understanding then was that the port, Navy and PWD would share the expenses equally.
Any delay in commissioning the bridge would result in overloading the 68-year-old Venduruthy Bridge that was damaged when the dredger crashed into the piers two times.
At present, the PWD is constructing the bridge using State Government funds. The 612 m, two-lane bridge is being built at an estimated cost of Rs.32 crore.
The Navy has taken up the issue with the Ministry of Defence and is awaiting its decision in this regard.
The bridge, located near the Southern Naval Command, is a crucial link to the city for thousands of Naval personnel, defence civilian employees and their families. Similar is the case with the port employees.
The port stopped maintaining the Venduruthy Bridge with the opening of the Alexander Parambithara Bridge, citing that container lorries no longer use it. Sources at the port said audit objections were raised when the bridge was repaired.
"Our financial position is tight and we may not be able to spare funds for the new bridge. We have been forced to seek Central assistance for many existing projects," they said.
At a meeting chaired by Chief Minister V.S. Achutanandan in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, the proposal to share funds came up again. As of now, work on 145 of the 170 piles of the new bridge is over. Pile capping work will begin next week but the PWD is hard pressed for funds and fears that it may not be able to complete the work by the deadline in December.
The Post-Graduate Engineers' Association said the new road and rail bridges being built parallel to the Venduruthy Bridge should be completed this year.
The association said the piles in the 10th span of the Venduruthy Bridge, from the Cochin Shipyard side, suffered damage after the dredger deployed by the port rammed it a week ago. An inspection by Yacub Mohan George, member, Bridge Maintenance and Rehabilitation Committee of Indian Road Congress, revealed that one of the piles is broken. The association said the bridge should be repaired immediately after the non-destructive tests.
Although work on the new railway bridge on the southern side of the Venduruthy Bridge began earlier than the road bridge, it has made tardy progress.