Marrir Hassan bridge to be demolished

The 130-year-old railway bridge at Marrir Chowk will be completely demolished within a few days for the expansion of Benazir Bhutto Road.

Under the Rs429 million project, the road would be widened by 30 feet on each side. The project will be executed by the National Logistics Cell (NLC) under the supervision of the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA).

Syed Munawar Shah, the divisional superintendent of railways, told Dawn that the three railway lines on the bridge were being dismantled in phases.

In the first phase, line number 1 and 2 were removed while keeping third one, which was meant for transportation of oil and lubricants from Attock Oil Factory to the Rawalpindi railway station. It will be removed when the two lines are reconstructed.

He said the train traffic would be slightly affected during the work as it was the main line connecting the city with other parts of the country.

The bridge, named Bab-i-Rawalpindi (gateway to Rawalpindi), was constructed in 1881 when the city was connected to Delhi through the main railway track.

The British army occupied Rawalpindi in 1849 and made it the headquarters of the northern command in 1851. The British rulers were more focused on this part of the subcontinent and used Rawalpindi as base camp for Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The railway bridge at Marrir Chowk is a reminder of the British Raj. It was also a link between the cantonment and the city areas of Rawalpindi.

Old residents of the city have good memories attached to the bridge. Some have seen political rallies standing on the bridge and others passed their leisure time on the bridge.

“I came to the city before the partition in 1939 and at that time the bridge used to be the boundary of the city,” said Falak Sheikh, an old timer presently living at Marrir Hasan Mohallah.

“From the bridge, I have seen political rallies of all  big names like Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.”

Khairuddin Khan, who lives in Naya Mohallah, said his family has been living in the city for the last 10 decades and he spent most of his childhood on the bridge.

“It used to be the favourite place for me and my two friends.”

He said he loved to travel on train but never got such an opportunity during his childhood. So he used to come to the bridge to see people travelling on trains.

Chaudhry Naseer Ahmad, the RDA director general, while talking to Dawn added: “We will not change the basic frame of the bridge but just expand the road and rebuild the bridge according to the international standards.” He said the height of the bridge would be 5.1 metres.

The RDA chief said they would complete the work within three months. The Pakistan Railways will make some modifications to the bridge.

Railway engineering department will prepare a design in this regard and send it to the RDA. Engineers have declared that since the bridge has completed its life 50 years ago, it was good for the Pakistan Railways to get new bridge.

“Due to fatigue phenomena, the rolled steel joist’s capacity of absorbing load has decreased. The construction of new bridge will not only solve traffic congestion at the main square but also help Pakistan Railways get new bridge,” said Attiqueur Rehman, an engineer, while talking to Dawn.

He said the maximum age of the rolled steel joist bridge was 70 to 80 years but it served the people 60 year extra.”