The verdict worldwide on flyovers is that they are an outdated 20th century concept as they not only fail to solve traffic problems, but also have a life cycle. The real cure for a city is adequate and well planned public transport.
But our administration has already built many flyovers and we are seeing them crumble. Many are developing cracks and holes and some are showing signs of collapse, leading to rising concern about having such risky constructions on our roads and in our public spaces.
Technically, flyovers and elevated corridors/sections are bridges that come under intense load and continuous stress for long periods of time. This requires that they undergo serious technical and safety planning , besides testing to ensure that they are safe to install and use. But are such procedures followed? Also, there has to be a plan for the construction under strict supervision to ensure the highest standards are followed. And most importantly, there has to be a warranty and maintenance plan as part of the project tender to ensure that the flyover’s safety and wear and tear are regularly inspected and preventive action taken to avert a disaster. Perhaps even more neccessary is maintaining 'transparency,' through display boards at the site during construction and afterwards, detailing the names of the agency, consultant, contractor, and the maintenance contractor, with contact details and links to the approval and technical plans of the project in public domain.
We are all aware of how broken the public works system in our city is. Plans are difficult to locate and it is difficult to pin responsibility for anything on anyone. Periodic inspection checks are non-existent and a defect or damage is discovered usually by the people, leading to a public outcry, as was recently demonstrated when cracks were noticed on a Metro Rail pillar on M G Road some months ago. The BMRCL is not transparent even about the repairs done or what it intends to do prevent future such occurences.
Just like buildings, bridges too have an expiry date, and in case of inferior construction, even shorter. The reactive culture of problem resolution that our local bodies indulge in should go. They need to update their practices within a preventive maintenance framework. A team should be tasked with the inspection and use-worthiness of all bridges and flyovers. Most importantly, the buck has to stop somewhere. Somebody needs to shoulder the responsibility as risks to public lives and limbs simply cannot be condoned.
Will the authorities up their game and set up better practices and transparency or will it take a tragedy to wake them up from their stupor?...