Government must soon attend to Bailey bridge replacement issues

Published at 12:00am on January 14, 2021

THE death of three people in a Bailey bridge collapse is shocking. The accident took place early Tuesday morning at Kutukchari on the Khagrachari–Rangamati Highway when the Bailey bridge collapsed as a truck laden with stones was passing through. It is expected that the authorities concerned will adequately compensate the victim families and hold to account anyone responsible for the accident. But a Roads and Highways Division official in Rangamati says that the bridge collapsed because the truck was overloaded. This raises concern as it is for the division and other relevant agencies to check against vehicle overloading. The Kutukchari union council chair, however, claims that the Bailey bridge was structurally weak as it had not been repaired for more than three decades. This is gravely worrying because Bailey bridges are temporary structures for a quick solution to road communication problems and they are meant to be replaced with permanent structures for a long-run solution.

The collapse of Bailey bridges because of poor maintenance and delayed replacement has also made the headlines in the past. Eight people were injured when a Bailey bridge collapsed at Boakhali in Khagrachari on December 26, 2020. In such a situation, it is unacceptable that Bailey bridges, which are meant to be temporary, are still in use across the country, adding to the risk of fatal accidents. Till 2017, as Roads and Highways Division statistics show, there were 856 Bailey bridges still in use that covered a span of 32 kilometres. These bridges are all vulnerable in one way or another because none of them are permanent structures and they are not meant to be in use for long. Poor maintenance of the bridges, overloaded vehicles running on them and, above all, not being replaced with permanent structures are said to be major reasons for the collapse of Bailey bridges that results in the loss of lives. An official of the Roads and Highways Division bridge management wing seeks to say that all Bailey bridges will be gradually replaced but cited fund constraints as a reason for the delay. This betrays indifference of a sort of the authorities concerned to the issue because most of the Bailey bridges have been in use for years which provided the authorities with enough time to replace them. When successive governments have initiated a number of large-scale projects in the transport sector, the unavailability of funds to replace or, at least, repair the Bailey bridges also rings hollow as a reason.

The government must, therefore, immediately attend to the Bailey bridge replacement issues. The government must also consider allocating dedicated funds to avoid further delay in Bailey bridge replacement. This should also serve as a reminder for the government to check against the overloading of vehicles that damages roads and bridges and squanders public money.