'Rlys' method of classifying bridges needs revaluation'

Photo by PTI

A parliamentary standing committee on railways has expressed reservations over the classification system of bridges and said the present method relegates 92 percent of the structures to the "minor bridge" category.

The railways classifies bridges under three broad categories, based on the breadth of the waterways on which those are built.

The bridges on a linear waterway of 300 meters are classified as "important bridges", those on a linear waterway of 18 meters as "major bridges" and all others as "minor bridges".

The committee, in its action-taken report submitted in Parliament on Tuesday, said it was "surprised" that though the 37,689 bridges on its network were 100 years old or older, yet the railways did not classify those under a special or separate segment.

It also said the present categorization was too broad and might lead to exclusion of a large number of bridges and in view of the fact that there were different parameters for inspections, maintenance, etc., such a wide difference would result in unequal weight or importance being given to only a few structures.

"The Committee express their reservations on the above-mentioned classification and recommend that the Ministry should re-evaluate its classification of bridges in order to bring about some parity," the panel headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Radha Mohan Singh said.

It also recommended that the re-evaluation should take into account the changing dynamics of modern rail transportation involving heavier and faster trains and a higher density of traffic, regardless of the measurement of the waterways on which the bridges were built.

"The Committee strongly feels that such a step would result in augmented safety and security of bridges," it said.

The panel added that deficiencies related to aging bridges could become a major concern for their structural safety. It also said it did not agree with the ministry's contention that the age of a bridge had no direct bearing on its safety and only the physical condition of the structure was taken into account while classifying bridges.

"The Committee wishes to remind the ministry that such a generalization would be detrimental to the health of a bridge since the archaic technology/materials of these older bridges may not be able to withstand the rigors of modern rail transport equipment.

"It should also be taken into account that these bridges have withstood the stress and rigors of over a century, suffering corrosion, distress, wear and tear. The Committee would like to emphasize that with the advent of modern rail transportation, older bridges may be unable to withstand higher load and speed, resulting in accidents or compromise with punctuality," it said. 

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