A barge crashed into the Pamban rail bridge late on Saturday night affecting rail traffic on the Ramanathapuram-Rameswaram sector. The barge crash damaged a pillar of the bridge.
The Chennai Egmore-Rameswaram and Madurai-Rameswaram expresses were stopped at the Mandapam railway station, while the Rameswaram-Madurai express was stopped at Rameswaram. If the Chennai train had been allowed to cross the bridge, a major accident could have occurred.
Railway and bridge safety officials rushed to the spot to repair the damage, but it proved to be futile. They engaged six mechanised boats to drag the barge from the bridge. The barge was moved slightly at 12.50 pm on Sunday and was moved 20 feet away from the bridge at 1.20 pm. A railway staff member said the bearings, pillar and track were damaged and a new pillar should be erected after removing the existing structure. Only then, train services may be operated, the employee added.
Meanwhile, a large number of tourists and locals thronged the Pamban road bridge on hearing about damage to the rail bridge. Police personnel failed to regulate traffic on the road bridge and it led to chaos as it was the only link between Mandapam and Pamban.
Railway authorities arranged nine TNSTC buses to transport the stranded rail passengers to Rameswaram and Ramanathapuram. Presently, train passengers may get down ahead of the rail bridge and take the bus service to cover the rest of the distance.
Lahiri, a representative of the Corporated Shipyard Pvt. Ltd., Kolkata, said at Pamban port office that the Navy had given an order to construct seven barges and three barges have already been delivered to them. The barge that met with the accident was the fourth one to be delivered at Karwar or Mumbai. The barge dashed against the bridge due to strong winds in the sea, he claimed.
A K Rustogi, Divisional Railway Manager(DRM), said the cost for rebuilding the pillar would be recovered from the barge owner. The restoration work would be completed in seven days, Rustogi added.