Whitefield Bridge begins three month-countdown

The latest realistically estimated date for the opening of the Whitefield railway overbridge is June 1st 2010.

On February 19th, a new contractor, Banashankari-based KPR Constructions took over the unfinished project. KPR Constructions, which takes on Railways contracts along with sister concern Balaji Builders, is headed by N Kumar, Managing Partner.

whitefield-steel-girder

A steel girder segment at the Kadugodi yard next the Whitefield Railway Station
has been painted as part of readying for launch. Pic: Subramaniam Vincent.

Speaking to Citizen Matters from Hubli on the telephone, Vijay Kumar, Chief Administrative Officer, South Western Railway, said the bridge will be ready "in April". Another top official at the South Western Railway, Bangalore, aggressively set the launch date as April 15th. This official requested that he not be named.

As earlier reporting has shown, estimates for the completion of this project have proved wrong each time. Kumar of KPR was more realistic than the Railways officials in his assessment. He first estimated May 2nd week, and moved that cautiously to June 1st in a second conversation. 

The good news is that the scene at the Kadugodi yard next to the Whitefield Railway Station comes as a pleasant surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the crisis that brought work to dead halt last year. The 42 metre steel girder is being assembled here. From a silent, almost dead yard with the massive steel girder segments lying around, the place now has a loud, clanking buzz with workers moving around and KPR engineers and as well junior Railways engineers walking around.

Such is the delight the restarting of work has created in commuters, that a Citizen Matters reader Sudipto Bose wrote this on February 22nd after visiting the yard: "Yes, they are working on the girders that have been made by Soham. I see that the work area has been cleaned, the girders now have some serial numbers. They have removed the covering in front and have a temporary genset for the welding power supply".

Bose did not stop there. "I think we should still do some movement with children – like carry lunch/flowers and hand them over to the workers from KPR. Make them conscious of the responsibility. Sounds crazy?" he signed off.

whitefield-bridge-welding

This sort of action was missing for several months at the yard, and many
commuters who take a brunt of the traffic gridlock every day are now hoping
to see the bridge launch soon. Pic: Subramaniam Vincent

Some of the reddish girder segments, built long ago by the previous contractor before that firm ran into a financial crisis, are now being sandblasted and painted in grey colour at the yard.

Kumar confirms that when KPR took over, welding issues (at the over 150 joints on the girder) remained and claims that his firm is fixing them. A team from the Welding Research Institute (WRI) in Trichy has already visited and is expected to give their report this week, he says, confident of getting their approvals.

Citizen Matters could not independently confirm the status with WRI at the time this report went live. Kumar says he is targeting the girder installation across the 6-track 42-metre span for the end of March and completion of the two ramps (roads leading up the girder) in April. "We are under pressure to finish on time, and are spending money on our own", he says. He also confirms that Aravind Limbavali (BJP MLA, Mahadevapura) and Minister of State in the Central Government for Railways K H Muniyappa have been pressing for this project to be finished.

In December 2009, SW Railway had terminated the earlier contract with Soham Engineering Constructions, the Hyderabad-based firm that had been struggling to complete the bridge. A new tender was floated the same month for Rs 2.8 crores, which the Railways awarded to KPR last month. The contract has been tendered in a mode where the Railways are going to pay only after project is finished, so KPR is now shelling out funds to finish the project.

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About Subramaniam Vincent 24 Articles
Subramaniam Vincent is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, Citizen Matters. His twitter handle is @subbuvincent.

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