Slow progress in construction of railway overbridges

The success of the Union government’s Setu Bharatam scheme rests on the timely construction of ROB/RUB (rail overbridges and underbridges), but official data reveals that only about a fourth of them have been awarded. Of the total 208 planned, only 24 ROBs are at various stages of completion, while work on RUBs is yet to begin.

These bridges are being executed under the Setu Bharatam scheme of the Union government, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2016.

The programme also includes construction of 208 level crossings (which do not fall under any other government scheme) at an estimated cost of Rs 208 billion.

The maximum number of ROBs would be constructed in Andhra Pradesh (31), followed by Bihar (21) and West Bengal (20).

According to an official presentation on Setu Bharatam, 43 ROBs were dropped from the list of planned bridges, while nine other ROBs were added as on 8 March 2018. So, now 174 ROBs are being constructed now under Setu Bharatam.

According to an expert, even though there is no specific reason for dropping a number of ROBs from the list, they may raise some objection as the cost of land for the construction of such bridges is borne by the respective states.

The state governments are mandated to complete the pre-requisite formalities like -- undertaking for closing of the Level Crossings, provision of funds in the state’s budget and advance action for land acquisition etc.

The Railways earlier used to share 50 per cent of the total cost of work for a two-lane road over bridge ie 7.5 meter-wide carriageway with two footpath of 1.5 metre width on either side.

For National Highways, the road width is 9.5 metre with two raised kerbs of 0.75 meter, or 7.8 meters with two footpaths of 1.5-metre width each, on either side or crash barriers as per stipulations and requirements of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH).

On 10 November 2014, however, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) and the Ministry of Railways signed an MoU to remove infrastructural bottlenecks. According to the preliminary contract, MORTH was to construct complete ROB/RUB (including railway bridge portion) on national highway corridors on a single-entity basis and bear the entire cost.

The MOU has been framed in such a way that approval of General Arrangement Drawing (GAD), as well as the construction of ROBs/RUBs, is not be hampered due to departmental proceedings.

The ministry has approved 116 GADs and 149 alignments of ROBs/RUBs so far and has deployed as many as 18 consultants for project preparation on the field.

The scheme was envisaged to ensure the safe and smooth flow of traffic by replacing all the Level Crossings on National Highways with ROBs/ RUBs and replacement, widening and strengthening of weak and narrow bridges.  

The ROBs and RUBs are constructed at the intersection of road and railway lines in order to prevent accidents. On 26 April, 13 children were killed and eight injured after a train hit their school van at an unmanned railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh's Kushinagar area. 

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