LAHORE: The Pakistan Railways has decided to plan reconstruction of all such bridges on its network that were built more than 100 years ago and may prove dangerous for railway operations.
Presiding over a meeting at the PR headquarters in Lahore on Thursday, minister Khwaja Saad Rafique sought proposals pertaining to old bridges so that their reconstruction projects could be included in the next 10-year development plan.
Mr Rafique also directed that new bridges in thickly populated areas and big cities should be designed in a way that the same could also be used for movement of vehicular traffic.
The meeting was informed that of the 13,959 bridges the PR had on its network, some 3,000 had been lying closed, while another 850 were not operational.
Most of these bridges were constructed well before the Partition when railway system was introduced in the subcontinent and had completed their prescribed life.
Some 115 new bridges had been constructed on the railway network during the last 20 years, the meeting was informed.
A senior PR officer who attended the meeting told Dawn that a total of 159 bridges were found to be ‘in acute distress, requiring repair and maintenance on an emergent basis’ in the comprehensive survey carried out by a team headed by the then federal government inspector of railways after collapse of a bridge between Ran Pathani and Dhabeji stations on July 30, 2006, cutting off rail link between Sindh capital and the rest of the country for six days or so.
The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) in its meeting on Nov 3, 2007, had granted approval to the Rs412 million PC-1 submitted by the Ministry of Railways for its Bridge Rehabilitation Project.
After release of funds, work on the project was started in April 2008. However, only 95 bridges could be made fit for rail operations to date.
Around 25 bridges were excluded from the project, while ongoing work on six others would be stopped by June 30 this year, said the officer seeking anonymity.
Most of the 13,841 bridges on the PR network had been constructed between 1886 and 1900. The railways estate code, the officer said, determined the maximum age of a bridge having masonry substructure at 100 years and that of steel at 60 years.
“At least 86 per cent of the total PR bridges are 100 to 145 years old and have outlived their utility. Only 115 bridges are less than 40 years old. A total of 640 bridges are 60 to 80 years old, 1,243 are 80 to 100 years old, 1,352 are
100 to 120 years old, 2,911 are 120 to 140 years, 7,580 are more than 140 years old,” said the officer.
A project to repair 93 railway bridges by June 2017 was also under way, while rehabilitation of another 66 bridges had already been completed.