The bridge is essential for movement of goods of businesses in major trading hubs like Sowcarpet in Chennai
In about a month’s time, the Elephant Gate bridge, which links areas like Choolai and Purasawalkam to major trading hubs like Sowcarpet, will be demolished by the Southern Railways.
After a two year delay, the bridge which is almost 150 years old, is finally set to be revamped. But this will mean an impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods that depend largely on this crucial route for their businesses.
From 15 November onwards, the Elephant Gate bridge was inaccessible even for two-wheeler riders.
According to the new traffic diversion plans, vehicles heading to Demellows Road from Wall Tax Road will now have to go through two major traffic zones -the Basin Bridge or take a two kilometer detour through Wall Tax Road (Central Station), take a right turn to Raja Muthiah and come back to Choolai.
Vehicles from Demellows Road heading to Wall Tax Rod or Mint can use the Basin Bridge.
These traffic diversions will remain till reconstruction of the bridge, which may take another three years approximately.
“For two years now, heavy vehicles were blocked and it was only two-wheelers that were allowed on the route due to its condition but now the bridge is completely closed for reconstruction.
Elephant Gate is a direct link for a well connected wholesale market like Sowcarpet, but now we see businesses getting diverted to Anna Nagar and T Nagar.
We had requested the authorities for reopening and swift completion of work even two years ago and plan to meet the General Manager of Southern Railways soon regarding the same,” says Jayanthilal Challani, President of Madras Jewellers and Diamond Merchants Association.
After almost two centuries, officials in 2017 had decided to demolish the bridge, but was it was left unattended for two years due to an internal scuffle.
According to official sources from Southern Railway who did not wish to be named - “Approval from TNEB (Tamil Nadu Electricity Board) is awaited for TANGEDCO (Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation) to start clearing the cables from underneath the bridge, only after which the Southern Railway will take a month’s time to complete the demolition process.”
Sources said, by now the project would have been completed but it was due to the same reason why the reconstruction was delayed earlier, where a disagreement between the railways and TANGEDCO took place as the latter could not find a place to shift the heavy load electric cables running below the bridge.
The issue however had been resolved this year. While the official did not confirm on a deadline but said at present a time frame of around 18 months would be required for the railway premises to be constructed.
Karuppusamy, Assistant Executive Engineer at Greater Chennai Corporation, told The Lede, “The bridge comes under the Southern Railways premises. We can only start the work once the demolition process is completed by them. Tenders will be floated in January 2020.
Both the ramps at the two ends, would be built by the corporation, being 250 metre length on the Pulianthope end and 180 metre length on Wall Tax Road end. There would be an extension of the existing 50 metres to 150 metres.”
TANGEDCO along with Southern Railways would play their roles in the reconstruction of this bridge, budgeted for around Rs 27 crore.
The length of the bridge would be 580 metres and the breadth would be 20 metres.
While the development project is essential for the battered bridge to be in usable condition again, the delay in reconstruction process has caused major inconvenience to the businesses dependent on this bridge.
The issue of concern now though is over how quickly the reconstruction will be completed.
“The current slowdown in market conditions, customers’ inflow from other areas which was cut by half for two years now, will now be completely scattered, with the bridge being closed.
Diversion of routes from Basin bridge and Central, has led to traffic stagnation for 1.5 hours, making customers snail their way to reach Mint Street,” says Suresh Jain, owner of a clothing store and President of Chinna Naicken Street, Sowcarpet.