A one-and-a-half-century-old railway bridge in the outskirts of Mumbai – that was decommissioned several years ago – is being demolished.
The bridge connects Naigaon in Palghar district to Bhayander in Thane district – and goes over the tiny Panju Island.
People travelling on the Western Railway (WR) mail/express and suburban trains can see this bridge as they pass the Vasai creek.
The original railway bridge built in the 1860s connecting the old Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI), the forerunner of WR with Mumbai.
The now 156-year-old bridge was decommissioned in 1983 after two new bridges were constructed almost parallel to the old ones.
The bridge, now abandoned, was auctioned in February, however, the work could not commence because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown.
The work has commenced on 5 November and is expected to be complete by 26 January next year.
On the other hand, the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) has planned 3+3 lanes road bridge that would run parallel to the rail bridge.
While the bridge that is being dismantled was of no use to the railways, people of Panju Island used to reach Naigaon or Bhayender. They, however, also walk on the new bridge from which the trains pass.
The Panju Island that is cut off from the mainland and like Mumbai also has a unique history.
The village is spread over 600 acres and has huge patches of salt pans and fishing boats dotting the elliptical coast. Villagers own around 100 plus boats – mainly used to sand dredging or fishing. “We connected with the old bridge. This was of emotional value to us,” said Kiran Bhoir, the founder of KMC Holidays Pvt Ltd, who hails from Panju Island.
While the British-era bridge would go down, the WR is contemplating preserving some heritage like the seals of the bridge - at the Churchgate heritage gallery.