In the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, the British prisoners of war during WW II are ordered to build a bridge which should be a symbol of British morale, spirit and dignity in adverse circumstances. The first look of VidyaSagar Setu (also know as Dwityo Hooghly Setu translated as the ‘Second Hooghly Bridge’, New Howrah Bridge and more popularly as just Setu), brings similar thoughts – a bridge thats symbolises the modern Kolkata, true to its never give up spirit, a monument to Kolkata’s character of joy.
Bridges. earlier were a simple and humble structures of wood and stones. Over time, industrial revolution brought in steel and concrete and the bridge was no longer built for the purpose of connecting separated lands and moving people and things from one point to another. The soon became a showcase of engineering marvel and were at the centerstage to a city, creating new landmarks. VidyaSagar Setu, is one of the examples of engineering feats of mankind.
VidyaSagar Setu was the second bridge to be built across the Hooghly River; the first, the Howrah Bridge (also known as Rabindra Setu) was completed in 1943. The Howrah bridge that replaced the erstwhile pontoon bridge, made kolkatta connect with the railway terminal at Howrah and connected it to the rest of the country. Population and commercial activity grew rapidly in the post independence era and the Howrah bridge, was subject to much traffic congestion, with over 85,000 vehicles every day. This necessitated planning for a new bridge across the river so that it could connect to the major cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai through the national highways as part of the Golden Quadrangle project.
Named after the famous 19th century educationist reformer Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the foundation stone for the bridge was laid by Indira Gandhi in 1972. The bridge took more than 20 years to complete and cost approx 4 billion INR and was commission in 1992.
Designed by Schlaich Bergermann & Partner, the bridge was constructed by a consortium of Braithwaite, Burn and Jessop. With a total length of 823 metres (2,700 ft), Vidyasagar Setu is the longest cable–stayed bridge in India.
The design of the Second Hooghly Bridge, is based on the concept of dead load: the deck is designed with a grid structure, with one group of girders at the end and another in the middle. With 121 cables in a fan arrangement, the bridge is built using steel pylons. The high pylons work as free-standing portals and have two cross-portal members at the bottom and top, below the pylon head. A specially designed crane of was used to erect the pylons of the bridge. Cables were erected from pylon heads using hoist frames mounted on top of each pylon. Lifting was done with the help of sheave blocks, winches and snatch blocks. The deck is made of composite steel-reinforced concrete with two carriageways, 3 lanes on each side. The two side spans are supported by parallel wire cables.
As evening turns into night in Kolkata, a streak of light dashes across the Hooghly river. The lights marking the length of the Vidyasagar Setu is a delight to watch at. The toll road also any biker’s delight especially at dawn to chase the rising sun over the river head.
Vidyasagar Setu, has also found its place in the cinematic screen of many a Bollywood and Tollywood flicks, with scenes from several films shot here. My favourite being the scene from the movie Yuva, where Lallan shoots Michael and is rescued by Arjun from the waters.