When overbridges in Kochi tell a sorry tale

The shoddy condition of the Harbour Bridge that links Thoppumpady and Willingdon Island, and the Venduruthy Bridge that links Thevara with the island are causing much inconvenience to motorists, especially residents of West Kochi who commute to the city and back.

Personnel attached to the Southern Naval Command, Cochin Port Trust employees and tourists visiting heritage zones in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry too are similarly inconvenienced since the PWD Bridges Wing has not initiated damage-control measures over Venduruthy Bridge which was commissioned in 2011.

This has resulted in concrete chunks wearing off from the surface of the bridge. The structure was not tar-coated, purportedly to prevent potholes developing on the tarred surface. Inadequate lighting over the bridge makes matters worse, posing considerable risk, especially to two-wheeler riders.

Interestingly, the old Venduruthy Bridge built by the British in 1938 remained intact and was used by all types of vehicles till 2011 although a dredger deployed by the Cochin Port Trust lost control and rammed it in two separate incidents that took place a decade and a half ago.

The Harbour Bridge, considered an engineering marvel, was built during the British era in the 1930s, and was used by even buses and lorries till 2001 when the Mattancherry BOT Bridge was commissioned.

PWD sources said that efforts were on to repair gaping potholes that dotted the bridge surface, especially in and around the central span. The bridge developed potholes although it was being used only by light vehicles, proving that repair and reinforcement works done by PWD a couple of years ago was of little use.

The BOT Bridge, now being used by heavy and even smaller vehicles, too is crying for upkeep and resurfacing.

‘Worst of times’

The deteriorating condition of the two bridges that link the city with West Kochi prompted former Mayor K.J. Sohan to recite Charles Dickens, who in A Tale of Two Cities said: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

“It is the worst of times for bridges in Kochi, as has been proven by the plight of Palarivattom flyover which is being dismantled for reconstruction. Commuters are having a harrowing time over almost all bridges in Kochi due to potholes and undulations. This shows that the PWD and other agencies did a shoddy job while constructing them. Officials of these agencies must take a cue from bridges built during the British era, which braved the elements and intense traffic for about a century. The condition of the Venduruthy Bridge needs special attention since it is only nine years old. Commuters do not have an alternative since the old bridge is closed for traffic.”

Pedestrian zone mooted

A heritage enthusiast, Mr. Sohan said that the old bridge must be put to good use, by renovating it as a pedestrian zone. It is also a vantage point for angling.

“The CSR funds of corporate firms can well be used for this. I had sent a letter to the British Council a few years ago, suggesting that expert help be made available to conserve the structure.

The Harbour Bridge can become yet another heritage attraction, if a lift or spiral stairway is constructed on its steel vertical frame at the centre, for people to have a bird’s eye view of landmarks in the area using a pair of binoculars. It will especially be of interest for children and youth.”

PWD sources said instructions had been given to regional officials to carry out repair works.

Kundannoor bridge

Yet another bridge that links the city with Willingdon Island, the two-km-long Kundannoor Bridge, too offers a gruelling ride to motorists due to severe undulations that dot its surface.

The PWD (NH wing) is under fire for slack upkeep of the structure.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2020 10:39:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/when-overbridges-in-kochi-tell-a-sorry-tale/article32967648.ece

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