Documents revealed that the bridge was opened to the public ahead of schedule.
The private company that renovated the almost 150-year-old bridge that collapsed in Gujarat’s Morbi yesterday, killing more than 140 people, had claimed the repairs, which they did “with modified technical specifications”, would hold up for at least another eight to ten years and people can enjoy “a carefree adventure”. “No doubt about that,” the Managing Director of the Oreva group had said during a press conference on October 24, days before the official reopening of the bridge following seven months of renovation.
“If people act responsibly without damaging the property, this renovation can sustain for the next 15 years,” he said, adding that “100 per cent” renovation of the bridge was done in just Rs 2 crore.
This press conference was streamed live by local news portals in Morbi.
“As we know, the bridge was made during a time when there was not much technical innovation, and only wooden planks and beams were used to make the bridge initially,” Managing Director Jaysukhbhai Patel said in Gujarati in response to questions by local reporters, adding that they had sent the requirements to companies (like Jindal) and according to the requirements and technical specifications, got the raw materials.
Mr Patel further explained that they would charge an entry fee to limit entry and manage crowds. “We also don’t want to overwhelm the sturdiness of the bridge,” he said.
“For students and for those coming in big groups, we’ll be giving them discounts, with the support of the Collector and the President of the Morbi Municipal Corporation, I don’t remember the exact agreement, but we’ll be revising the entry fees by one-two rupee every year for the next 7 years,” he said.
Oreva had subcontracted part of the renovation project to ‘Prakash bhai’, part of a company called Dev Prakash Solutions, as they had handled part of the repairs post-earthquake in 2007, Mr Patel said in the press conference.
Mr Patel said that his company would handle the operation, and maintenance, while the lighting was assigned to an Ahmedabad based company, “which will start the night light set up shortly”.
The company had planned to keep the bridge open to public till 6-6:30 pm initially would extend the timing till later in the night for evening strolls once the lighting work was done. “We might open it in the night for around 2 hours,” he said, citing public demand.
Documents revealed that the bridge was opened to the public ahead of schedule by the Oreva group.
According to the contract between the Morbi municipal body and Ajanta Manufacturing Private Limited, accessed by NDTV, the bridge had to be shut for at least eight to 12 months for maintenance and repairs.
The company did not take a fitness certificate from the civic authorities, which Morbi municipal agency chief Sandipsinh Zala confirmed to NDTV on Sunday.
Ajanta, a clockmaker, is part of the Oreva Group, which sold tickets for the bridge at Rs 17 apiece.
Apart from the early reopening, every safety rule was broken.
There were close to 500 people on the “hanging bridge” when the cables snapped on Sunday evening, sending hundreds tumbling into the river. The bridge could take the weight of only about 125 people, according to officials.