Our aged railway bridges: 38,850 of them are more than 100 years old

New Delhi, Nov 6 (IANS) The recent bridge collapse incident in Gujarat’s Morbi district has triggered a debate over the reliability of old bridges across the country.
After the incident that shook the whole country, it seems necessary to examine the condition of the bridges which are more than 100 years old to avoid such accidents in the future.
The British-era suspension bridge built over the Machchhu river in Morbi was famous as ‘Jhulta Pul’ and visitors are charged to climb over it to see the view of the river.
Talking about railways, there are many such bridges that are more than 100 years old, and of which repair and maintenance are also done from time to time so that the credibility of such bridges remains intact.
As per the data by the Centre in the Rajya Sabha on December 13, 2019, there are 38,850 railway bridges which are more than 100 years old.
The government also shared the zone wise data of such bridges, according to which, the Central Railway has 4,346 bridges that over 100-year old while the Eastern, East Central and the East Coast Railways have 2,913, 4,754 and 924 such bridges respectively.
Similarly, the Northern Railway has 8,767, North Central Railway (2,281), North Eastern Railway (509), Northeast Frontier Railway (219), North Western Railway (985), Southern Railway (2,493), South Central Railway (3,040), South Eastern Railway (1,797), South East Central Railway (875), South Western Railway (189), Western Railway (2,866) and West Central Railway has 1,892 such bridges which are over 100-year old.
Replying to a question, the then (2019) Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had said that there is a systematic process for inspection of railway bridges.
The railways carry out inspection twice a year — the first one is done before the monsoon and the second one is done after the monsoon season on a broader scale. After inspection, each bridge is assigned an overall rating number (ORN) and the bridge is rebuilt based on its ORN.
Goyal had also informed the Rajya Sabha that a total of 4,032 bridges have been repaired/restored/reconstructed during the last five years (2014-15 to 2018-19) while the work on 861 bridges were carried out between 2019 and 2020.
A total of 4,168 railway bridges have been sanctioned for repair/restore/reconstruction as on April, 1, 2019.
It is evident that the railways remain vigilant in the maintenance of bridges that are more than 100 years old.
The railways halts operations, when the water level in the Yamuna river crosses the danger mark, the oldest railway bridge on the Yamuna river in Delhi is closed as a precaution. The work on this bridge was started in 1863 and was completed in 1866. Earlier it was made a single line bridge but in 1934, it was expanded to a double line bridge.

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