Consulting Engineers express concern at collapse of Bailley Bridge in Uttarakhand Newsdesk

Consulting Engineers Association of India (CEAI), an apex body of consulting engineers expressed concern at the collapse of a Bailey bridge near Line of Actual Control (LAC) near China border in the state of Uttarakhand a couple of days back  at a time when these areas face security problems and need reliable infrastructure.

In similar incidents in the recent past where lives were lost, the CEAI  had stressed on the need for carrying out Inventory and Condition survey of all bridges and culverts on rail and road networks, presently being maintained by Centre and  State Government agencies including Municipal Corporations,  Public Works Department and civic agencies as a precautionary measure. Now a new dimension of using sub-optimal bridges with obsolete equipment also needs address.

 “The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) have already appointed consultants to carry out Inventory and Conditions survey of bridges and culverts (for updating the Bridge Management Survey (BMS)   on existing highways and roads. The Ministry of Railways, State Governments in the country and Municipalities should be proactive when it comes to safety of vehicles and pedestrian bridges affecting public life” said Mr K K Kapila, former Chairman, Consulting Engineers Association of India (CEAI) and Chairman, Infrastructure Committee, CEAI.

“Similar Inventory and Condition process should be carried out for bridges less than 20 feet, i.e. smaller bridge structures or pedestrian bridges, as is the practise worldwide.  This will lay the foundation of a good  bridge  maintenance programme based on quality inspection data, including complete and accurate information on the bridge structures falling in the purview of the Centre, State or a City   agency. These structures need to be regularly inspected for ‘Sufficiency’ rating as per requirement of Bridge Inventory Standards,” added Mr Kapila. 

“The sufficiency rating is a numerical rating between 0 and 100 given to each highway bridge. The value is based on a bridge’s structural adequacy and safety, essentially for public use, and its serviceability and functional obsolescence. Monitoring this will ensure safety of vehicular and pedestrian bridges and public life”, he added”.

He also stressed on the need to review use of sub-optimal unsafe equipment bridges especially on National Highways and roads with security implications.  Bridges with sub-optimal specifications reduce the capacity of the road, by lowering the speed of traffic and the loads carried. This is aggravated when single lane bridges like the Bailey Bridge are constructed on double lane roads and their load capacity is as low as 12-18 tons as in the recent incident close to the LAC.  With a wider bridge and load capacity of a 100 tons (Class 70 R),  the through put is increased 4-6 times and the bridge is much safer.  This can be achieved with the New Generation Quick Launch Bridges that have replaced Bailey Bridges the world over. One such bridge has been in use in Uttrakhand for some time now, built in record time near Sonprayag and seen by NHAI officials during construction. Not only does it take loads and traffic as per IRC loading requirements, the bridge is also permanent, as against Bailey Bridges which is at best semi-permanent with 25 years life.

“ The through put of a road is decided by the weakest bridge.  By identifying them and replacing them with stronger, wider, safer bridges the capacity of the road can overnight be increased many times.  It will give a big commercial boost to the region and promote safety and enable faster infrastructure development using bigger, better construction equipment.  We have to meet the aspirations of the locals and not police bridges to restrict traffic and loading.  The New Generation Quick Launch Pre-engineered bridges allow for this and need urgent attention especially along our border areas.

The Indian road network consists of more than one lakh bridges. Of these more than 30,000 bridges on Indian Railways network are over 100 years old and so introduction of technologies that facilitate quick, safe construction of bridges on a running line are the need of the hour. These New Generation Quick Launch Bridges enable a safe launch in minimal time in very tight launch conditions, without rail-blocks and merit being explored by the railways too.

“A year back the foot over-bridge constructed at Elphinstone Station, Mumbai was in the news.  The Army Engineers received acclaim for the speedy work using a Bailey Bridge. Today the option has widened to faster construction of heavier road bridges with over 100 Ton loading using better equipment bridges.  Such bridges will be more useful in peace time and be more operationally enabling to the Army closer to the LAC. It is time to change.  We need to lay higher standards of safety and usage with world class quality,” he added   

Source: V K Arora