''Old Naini Railway bridge (1865)'', Allahabad , UP .and the tough task of rehabilitation of old railway bridges!!

 Colonial Nani bridge, Allahabad, UP 

Above image:  The Colonial Nani bridge, Allahabad, UP  that had turned 150 on August 15, 2015 is a heritage bridge  with a total length of 3,150 feet  across the river Yamuna, 14 spans of 200 feet and two of 60 feet. The bridge has a railway line on the top and a roadway beneath.  Designed by  railway engineer Rendell, initially decision was taken as early as 1855; but, the actual work began in 1859 and was opened for public on August 15, 1865. The first train ran on the bridge on July 15, 1865 and on August 8 the capacity of girders was  carefully tested with a load comprising five engines and tenders. The regular traffic as allowed after confirming the bridge's load-bearing capacity,

The old bridge's engineering details are quite amazing and was built to last long.  Depth of foundation below is upto 42 feet and the height from low water level to underside of girder is 58.75 feet. The weight of the girder is 4,300 tons resting on strong foundation work. . It is mentioned that   2.5 million cubic feet of masonry and brick work was used in it.. As  for the construction cost of Rs. 44,46,300, Rs14,63,300 wa spent on  the rust-resisting  girders.  In 1928-29, the old girders were replaced by new ones. The route was one of the earliest to be electrified, and masts  were erected on the long bridge to carry the overhead traction contact wire. The new bridge was built in 2004 with a view to reducing the traffic on the old Nani bridge. 

New bridge across the Yamuna (2004)Allahabad,upload.wikimedia.org

Colonial Nani bridge, Allahabad, UP m.rediff.com

At Allahabad the double-deck bridge made of cast-iron  , steel-trusses  stretching 1,006-metre  built in 1865 is no doubt an engineering  grandeur..  People travel by rains and motor vehicle to cross the Yamuna river close to its  confluence with the Ganga, Visitors to this city in UP will never miss this destination from where they get a better vista of the sprawling  holy rivers meandering banks. 

April 1853 India: first passenger train Mumbai to Thane.
There are thousands of railway bridges  across the country connecting various places, towns, etc constructed during the colonial time, For unknown reasons,  details are not available about their date of construction, technical data, instructions with respect to periodic upkeep, etc.. Regarding 5,883 bridges, (1,850 in Central and 4,033 in North Eastern Railways), year of construction was not available with the railway administrations.  Even if the records do contain details, they are not educative, Nor do they contain the needed historical facts and the facts that pushed the government to build them. 

Considering their age, routine use for decades such bridges need to be checked frequently for their safety and durability. CAG reports highlight inordinate delays in the matter of   rehabilitation of old bridges built several decades ago by the British.  Surprisingly,, most of the bridges have well built masonry foundation work, sturdy piers and rust proof steel bridges across rivers.  

The Corporate Safety Agency in August 2008  had a  major proposal to rehabilitate   2,700 bridges including  annual rehabilitation of  600 distressed railway bridges by 2013. Apart,  rehabilitation will cover  19,000 bridges over a period of 10 years. Their technical aspects being   obsolete,  special care has to be taken  to maintain them and their safety factors. The cash-strapped Indian Railways hasn’t been able to fix them because it is more than their capacity to handle  a vast number of them built in different terrain following engineering techniques suitable to the terrains. If the project of rehabilitation of the old bridges is taken by the IR, can they stick to the specified timelines?.

A  large number of old railway bridges have been in service  far beyond  their capability and life.  At this stage  bridges will simply  be not able to endure the stress of faster and heavier  moving trains. IR has more than 36000 railway bridges that are more than 100 years old.  The central govt. is making efforts to repair the bridges in order to handle high  speed trains and freight trains with heavier load. 

 In spite of budgetary constraints and inadequate financial allocation for major repairs and other  bottlenecks, IR is moving ahead with new train routes, doubling tracks,  electrification, introduction of high speed trains covering semi urban  areas, etc.  

''The Railway Board has ordered a review of all rail bridges in the country that need repair after it was found that out of the 275 such bridges only 23 had speed restrictions on them.The board had earlier sought details of the condition of bridges and found that the trains would pass on the 252 dilapidated bridges at its usual speed posing a safety''