Mumbai: At least once every month, a tall container or heavy vehicle gets stuck under the King’s Circle railway overbridge on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road. Only recently, a brand new locomotive coach being brought to the city was damaged as its carrier tried to pass through.
The BMC has finally allowed the Central Railway (CR) to erect a height gauge near Sion Hospital, to prevent tall containers and heavy vehicles from passing under the King’s Circle bridge. The work on the gauge will start later this week and be completed by November.
Due to alleged poor monitoring by the traffic police and repeated resurfacing of roads by the BMC, the King’s Circle railway overbridge has become a headache for the authorities.
Since January 2019, 18 cases of damage to the bridge’s height barriers by tall containers have been reported, posing a serious threat to the safety of trains as well as motorists.
Fourteen cases were reported in the third lane, which has a clearance of only 4.3 metres, lower than the 5m standard set by the Indian Road Congress.
One of the oldest rail overbridges in the city, the King’s Circle bridge is part of the CR’s Harbour Line. Railway officials have said that its foundation is still very strong but frequent accidents can have dangerous consequences.
A senior CR official said that dozens of letters were written to the BMC’s road and traffic department without any solution.
“Finally, we decided to erect a height gauge near Sion hospital to restrict tall vehicles from entering the most affected lane,” he said, adding that work will begin later this week and end sometime in November.
He attributed the accidents to poor monitoring by the traffic police and repeatedly repaving the road. Incidentally, two police stations – Matunga and Sion – are located only 50 metres from the site.
What the Traffic Police say
In July 2018, the additional commissioner of police (traffic) issued a notification regarding frequent incidents of tall vehicles crashing into the height gauge installed at the King’s Circle bridge. Each incident enhances the potential danger to the bridge itself, as it can result in derailment of a train full of passengers.
Therefore, as per the traffic notification, to prevent danger, obstruction and inconvenience to the public, any vehicle taller than 3.8 meters from the road level is not allowed on Dr Babasaheb
Ambedkar Road, southbound from Rani Laxmibai Chowk (Sion Circle) towards Maheshwari Udyan (Matunga), and north-bound from Dadar after turning right from Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road (Wadala Char Rasta).
Despite this notification, 18 accidents have occurred in almost four years.
On May 6 this year, the city engineer (Road and Traffic department) of the BMC called a meeting to discuss immediate measures to permanently restrict the entry of heavy vehicles in the middle lanes.
Besides, it was decided to lower the road surface by at least 0.30 metres, which will be done by the BMC after assessing the flooding conditions. However, since May, neither has been done.
After a recent incident on September 28, the railway authorities wrote to the assistant commissioner of F-North ward to finally resolve the issue. A joint meeting of the BMC and the railways was organised the next day and was attended by F-North ward officials and engineers of the bridges and the roads departments.
An official said that the executive engineer (bridges department) of the BMC showed his inability to provide a height gauge at the entry point in the middle lanes.
He suggested that the railways should provide the height gauge at a distance of about 500 metres from the bridge at points where heavy vehicles are entering the middle lanes.
The official said that the railway authorities didn’t have any choice and therefore hence asked for permission to erect another height gauge near Sion Hospital, which was granted by the BMC on Monday.
Not the 1st gauge at Sion Hospital
Civic officials from F-North ward’s road department said that an accident occurs on the critical spot almost every two months. Earlier, height barriers had been installed near Sion Hospital but were damaged within a few days.
An official, on condition of anonymity, said, “We have now allowed the railways to install the gauges. Instead of putting a barrier near Gandhi market, they can be installed near Sion Circle, so that vehicles don’t come anywhere near the bridge.”
He added that the railways has its own structural engineers who can design the barrier the way they want. He also denied allegations that the civic body has added asphalt to the road during various repaving exercises. Though he agreed that the road under the bridge was concretised in 2015.