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Parliamentary panel rejects Centre’s stand on rail bridges

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The committee added that it was “surprised” to find that though 37,689 railway bridges were 100 years or older, the Railways does not classify them as a special/separate segment

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways has expressed serious concern about the Ministry’s lack of effort to address the panel’s reservations over the maintenance protocol for bridges that are more than a century old and its emphasis on the need to re-evaluate the classification of railway bridges so as to augment their safety and security.

In reports submitted in Parliament on Tuesday, the committee reiterated two of its recommendations on the issue while rejecting the replies of the government.

The panel had in an earlier report highlighted the need for re-evaluation of the existing system of classification of railway bridges by the Indian Railways, among 12 other recommendations. It had also highlighted the need for taking the age of a bridge into consideration while formulating inspection/maintenance protocols.

“In this context, the Committee strongly recommended that bridges which were more than 100 years old warranted a separate protocol for inspection and maintenance,” the committee observed.

The ministry, the panel added, had further categorically stated that the classification of the bridges or age of the bridges did not have direct relevance to the inspection/maintenance protocol of bridges. “This premise of the Ministry is not acceptable to the Committee. They, therefore, reiterate their earlier recommendation for revising the existing system of bridge classification in order to bring about a fair degree of parity of bridges as well as to strengthen the bridge network across the Indian Railways.”

India’s railway bridges currently are classified into important bridges, major bridges and minor bridges on the basis of linear waterway. Noting that the Indian Railways has over 1.47 lakh bridges across its network, the committee had noted that the current classification effectively relegated 92% of the bridges into the minor bridges category. The panel opined that such a categorisation was too broad and could lead to the exclusion of a large number of bridges.

“In view of the fact that there exists different parameters for inspections, maintenance etc. of bridges, such a wide difference would result in unequal weightage/importance being given to only a few bridges as compared to vast majority,” the panel observed. “The Committee had recommended that the ministry re-evaluate classification of bridges, taking into account their use by heavier and faster trains and higher density of traffic, regardless of the measurement of waterways. “The Committee strongly feel that such a step would result in augmented safety and security of bridges.”

The committee added that it was “surprised” to find that though 37,689 railway bridges were 100 years or older, the Railways does not classify them as a special/separate segment. “Rather they are kept at par with the existing newer/modern bridges when it comes to inspections and maintenance. The Committee express serious doubts over such an action and opine that these bridges have been planned for lesser loads and service conditions that have changed radically over time.”

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 5:56:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/parliamentary-panel-rejects-centres-stand-on-rail-bridges/article30152341.ece

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