Some British-era railway bridges were in a better condition than the ones built after independence, a parliamentary committee report said today, blaming the nexus between officials and contractors for the poor quality of bridges. The Public Accounts Committee which presented its report — Maintenance of Bridges in Indian Railway — in Parliament, came down hard on the national transporter and said that the delay in sanctioning bridgework was putting the lives of passengers at risk. “The committee note that while certain railway bridges constructed during British rule are in good condition, railway bridges constructed or reconstructed after independence are of inferior quality and need frequent repair. “Nexus between railway officials and few contractors severely affect the quality and life of its construction,” the report stated.
The committee headed by Congress’s Mallikarjuna Kharge recommended that the tender for construction or rehabilitation of bridges be done through e-tendering so as to make the system transparent and to attract large number of reputed and competent construction companies in the tendering process. It also said that companies or contractors who fail to ensure quality and long life of bridges be debarred from participating in future tenders and penalised for it. The committee which based its report on a 2015 CAG report on railway bridges and representations by Railway Board members, expressed its shock that out of the 3,979 bridgesworks sanctioned by the Railway Board, work on 710 bridges remains to be completed as on March 2015.
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According to a Railway Board letter in October 2017, the Central Railways has 61 bridges that need repair, East Central Railways has 63, South Central Railways has 41 and Western Railways has 42 bridges pending rebuilding.
The committee noted that while the paucity of funds was cited as a reason for shortfall in achievement of targets for bridgeworks, the budget grant provided was not utilised to the tune of Rs 60.95 crore per annum. “The committee has desired that a strategic management system be developed for fast tracking sanction of rehabilitation or reconstruction of bridges within a time frame based on priority for safety”, the report stated.