Bridge collapse disrupts rail traffic

The Palghar-Bhoisar bridge, which connects Mumbai with northern India, after it collapsed due to heavy rains, disrupting rail traffic. — PTI

The Palghar-Bhoisar bridge, which connects Mumbai with northern India, after it collapsed due to heavy rains, disrupting rail traffic. — PTI  

PALGHAR (Maharashtra) JULY 3. Over 2000 railmen and labourers are toiling for a week to restore the rain-devastated strategic railway line that links western and parts of north India with the rest of the country.

Torrential rains last Wednesday breached the country's busiest railway line at several places in Thane district, besides damaging a major bridge (no. 144), about 8 km from here.

The rail line is the arterial route of the Western Railway network, interlinking the Mumbai-Ahmedabad section, the country's most industrialised area.

While the minor bridges and washaways were restored within a day, it took three days to fill in four lakh cubic feet of boulders and ballast stones to repair four major bridges. But this bridge continues to be a challenge.It will be at least four more days before a temporary structure of four spans of steel girders supported by modular steel frames is put in place to open the route for traffic at restricted speed, according to the principal chief engineer, R.S. Varshneya, who is supervising the restoration.

The Western Railway and Central Railway pressed into service 57 special freight trains with a total of 1,500 wagons to haul in men and material from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The 141-year-old bridge is one of the toughest structures that would have served for another 30 years had it not been struck by the 689 mm rain in 24 hours, about 40 per cent of the annual rainfall of this area.

To remove its remains, the railway engineers had to dynamite it five times from the top to blast off its keystone.

The Railways have moved in from Ahmedabad and Bhusaval two special cranes of 140 tonnes each for launching the steel girders.

The Western Railway is losing over Rs. 2.25 crores a day because of the disruption of the line, counting alone the passenger and freight traffic originating from the Mumbai Division, the senior divisional commercial manager, B.K. Dadabhoy, said.

While the engineers are evaluating the options of having a permanent bridge of single span through steel girder bridge or pre-stressed concrete girder, the officers are taking pride in their gangman, Dhakar Bindra.

Mr. Bindra, a railman of 18 years service, was on `monsoon patrol', looking for damage to the tracks, when he noticed that the bridge was broken. He tried to alert the stationmaster of Boiser on phone but the unrelenting raining had already killed the line.

He ran several kilometres with his red lantern and reported the calamity.

His action averted a major mishap that could have taken scores of lives.

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