After battling a delay of almost two years, much to the chagrin of hassled commuters, work on the 42-metre-long railway over bridge (ROB) at the Kadugodi railway level crossing in Whitefield is nearing completion. The office of Commissioner of Railway safety in Bangalore, headed by K J S Naidu, says the (pending and necessary) approvals were accorded to the South Western Railways on June 8th.
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"The ball is now in the court of the railway authorities to oversee the timely execution and commissioning of the railway overbridge," said an official at the railway safety department, who did not want to be named since he was not authorised to speak to the press in the absence of Naidu. The erstwhile deadline of Mar 2009 was breached long back. Commuters may see light at the end of the tunnel soon, according to Soham Engineering Constructions, the contractor, a Hyderabad-based firm, led by Managing Partner Narayanan.
The project should be completed in about two and a half months, says a top engineer at Soham, who is onsite. "We are under tremendous pressure to complete it at the earliest. There is vigorous inspection happening from the railway authorities everyday", he added.
A top official at South Western Railway who is intimately familiar with the details and delays of this project, was even more specific. He said Aug 15th was the target date to open the bridge to the public. The official requested anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the press.
What caused the extended delay, again?
"The welding process for the steel girder is an extremely cumbersome process. It is very important that we adhere to the quality process. Quality has to be thoroughly confirmed to. Taking care to ensure the quality checks has cost us this additional time," says the engineer from Soham.
"One 10 meter piece of the girder has about 16 joints. Each butt wielding has to be ultrasonically tested. The submerged arc building has to be wielded when the temperature is around 28 degree Celsius. When there is a deluge or a downpour, the work will have to be suspended. Work on these joints have to be carried out very meticulously, and has to go through timely approvals by the railway engineers and supervisors. Citizens are under hassle no doubt but they should understand that following quality controls is extremely important to ensure safety. The bridge has to withstand the test of atleast a 100 years time" says the Soham engineer passionately.
He adds that another twenty days critical work is remaining on the girder. "At the moment the central span fabrication work on the 42-metre steel girder is (still) underway and almost over", says the Soham engineer. After this, the stiffener building will commence, and following that an anti corrosion coating will be done. The girder will then be ready for installation. 150 tonnes of steel has been used to carve out the girder, according to the Soham engineer.
Safety is paramount, clearance finally given
In the meantime, as noted at the beginning, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) in Bangalore has only this week given its sanction for the project. The Commissioner of Railway Safety is a statutory body that issues clearances on rail safety. The CRS for South India is head-quartered in Bengaluru.
Only recently, when questioned on the delay in the sanction which had not been received until last week, a top Railways official speaking to Citizen Matters had said, "We have tabled our papers and had several rounds of discussion. We have gone back and forth with suggestions and amendments, the procedure is almost complete now."
The sanction is a certificate of assurance that will attest the quality and safety norms used in building of the girder. With the sanction now through, the steel girder when completed can be launched into the 42-metre span. Sources from the Railways confirm there is about two weeks work left on the steel girder.
Before the girder is installed, the 25000-volt electrical lines over the tracks will have to be lowered by 90 cms to install the steel girder. "The hi-voltage electrical lines will be suspended during the night and gradually lowered over a spread of few days. Work will have to be done only during the night to minimise disruption of trains schedules", says the Railways official.
The contractor, Soham, originally had to suffer additional expenditure on account of the exorbitant steel and cement price spirals over a year ago. The price formula used in the original contract with the railway authorities does not factor-in steep escalations in input costs. "The additional cost expenditure on the project on account of the steel and cement prices will be dealt with the railway authorities after the project completion. Whatever the commercial aspects are, they better be kept away from mechanical aspects of the projects. We don’t want to compromise on quality. Our aim at the moment is completion of task at hand", says the Soham engineer.
Whatever be the reasons for the delay, the citizens now are in the mood for results. The extra wait for a hassle free commute in this long drawn Northeast Bengaluru-bottleneck better be worth the pain undergone all these years.