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Karabi Borsaikia
Date of Publish: 2017-06-08

India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge not complete even after 20 years

India’s longest Rail-cum-Road bridge-the Bogibeel bridge on the river Brahmaputra connecting Dhemaji and Dibrugarh districts in Assam, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1997, is not yet complete.

It was in 1997, when the then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda laid the foundation stone of the bridge at Dhemaji. In 2002, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee inaugurated the commencement of the construction work at Dibrugarh. Total length of the main bridge in 4.94 km. Original construction cost of the bridge was estimated at Rs 1767 Crore which has now escalated to around Rs. 5000 crore.

In 1982, first the North Eastern Council and then the Northeast Frontier Railway had asked the RITES to carry out a detailed techno-economic feasibility study for a rail-cum-road bridge in this region. The RITES submitted a detailed investigation report in 1988. The RITES was asked to do a fresh study in April,1997 due to changes in configuration and topography of the river, according to N.F. Railways. Based on this fresh report, the work of construction of rail-cum-road bridge at Bogibeel, about 17 km off Dibrugarh town was included in the railway budget of 1997-98. The Bogibeel Bridge Project got the status of a National Project in 2007.

After the bridge is commissioned, the distance between Rangia to Tinsukia via Dibrugarh will be reduced by 144 kms. The distance between these two towns via South Bank of Brahmaputra is 575 km while the distance via North bank and the Bogibeel bridge will be 431 kms. The rail link through the bridge would be connecting Chalkhowa station on the South bank and between Sisibargaon and Siripani on the North bank.

( Diagram courtesy: N.F. Railway )

The delay in construction of the bridge has only stretched the woes of the people who are dependent on ferry services. Dibrugarh University located in Dibrugarh town is the prime destination for higher education in upper Assam. A large number of students from Dhemaji enrol in this university for higher studies. The students, their parents and guardians face difficulties due to poor river transport system. The ferry service is suspended during flood season when the water flows above the danger mark. The enrolment process in Dibrugarh University and colleges affiliated to it takes place during rainy season in June and July and the classes start in August. The communication across the river snaps during ravaging annual floods that occurs during this period.

Besides, the students and their guardians are required to stay overnight in Dibrugarh as they cannot return the same day when they come for a day’s work. This creates huge financial burden for the poor and the downtrodden.

The people of Dhemaji have also been grappling with the problem of absence of quality hospitals. They have to cross the river to avail treatment at Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh. The family members of patients needing emergency medical care go through harrowing experiences as no ferry service operates during night due to lack of night navigation system. They have no other option but the first ferry the next morning to rush the patient to Dibrugarh. There are instances of patients succumbing when they could not be rushed to Dibrugarh for emergency medical intervention during night.

Lack of vigil and monitoring by the authorities concerned over the ferry services also add to commuters’ woes. There is visible system of restricting number of passengers and vehicles transported on the ferries. The ferries are always overloaded with passengers and vehicles. On the other hand, the private taxis that ply to and the ferry ghat are also seen overloaded with passengers.

As the number government-run ferries are limited, commuters are dependent on private ferry services which charge higher fares. The people of Dhemaji, Dibrugarh and adjoining areas are eagerly awaiting the completion of the Bogibeel bridge as their problems are expected to end with the commissioning of the bridge. However, there seems to be no immediate end to their woes.

Karabi Borsaikia

( Karabi Borsaikia is a student of M. A. ( final semester) at the Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Dibrugarh University )

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