Twelve years after work began on the railway bridge along the Trichy-Rameswaram national highway near Kalamavur in Pudukkottai district, the project remains incomplete and virtually a liability for the public. Commuters had been facing severe inconvenience ever since the construction started with several lives being lost in road accidents. What is more frustrating is the fact that vehicles have been paying toll for over seven years now for the unborn bridge on the NH.
The work which began at an estimated cost of Rs 50 crore came to a halt midway and was finally abandoned about a couple of years ago. In fact, the work was almost complete on the railway deck as well as approach roads on either sides, except that the two sections were not connected. Some additional repair works are also to be carried. The contractor who took up the work had left it in between and the authorities too were apathetic towards its completion. Former finance minister, P Chidambaram, had a couple of days ago called for an all-party protest in case of further delay in completing the project which was initiated during the previous government’s tenure.
“Several people have lost their lives in fatal accidents on the stretch over the past four years,” said M Shankar, a consumer activist Keeranur who has been spearheading the protest against the inordinate delay in completing the ROB project. “Nallur toll plaza has been functional a few hundred metres away from the bridge site over the past 7 years and people are forced to pay for the yet-to-be completed bridge,” he said.
We were assured in December 2017 by NHAI officials that the bridge will be thrown open by March 2018. This was in the presence of the Pudukkottai collector, but nothing materialized,” says he. Recalling his conversation with Sunil, who is in-charge of the project on behalf of Transstroy India limited, Sankar claimed that he had blamed it on the corruption indulged in by officials which had caused him losses. “They later decided to call off the work including at five other places across the state after a penalty was imposed on them by NHAI for delaying the work,” said Sankar.
When contacted, an NHAI official however squarely blamed it on the contractor. “The delay was mainly because of the contractor (Transstroy India limited) which left the work midway,” he claimed. Sources said that another Rs 12crore was needed to bring the bridge to use by connecting the approach roads on either side. “The tender process will be initiated in December and the work may start by January and get over by April next year,” said the official. However, considering the empty promise that it turned out to be in December last year, few are willing to believe that NHAI means it.