The Howrah Bridge is located between the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata in West Bengal, India. The 705m long and 30m wide bridge was built in 1943 over the Hooghly River. It was rechristened as Rabindra Setu in June 1965, after the first Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The bridge is commonly called Howrah Bridge.

The Howrah Bridge was commissioned in February 1943. The final cost of the bridge was estimated at INR25m. The bridge carries a daily traffic of around 80,000 vehicles and over 1m pedestrians. Howrah Bridge is the sixth longest cantilever bridge in the world.

Howrah Bridge layout and structure

The Howrah Bridge is a suspension type balanced cantilever bridge. It has a central span of 1500ft between the main towers. The anchor and cantilever arms are 325ft and 468ft long respectively.

The suspended span has a length of 564ft. Main towers are 280ft high above the monoliths and 76ft apart at the top. The bridge deck measures 71ft in width and features two footpaths of 15ft on either side.

“The Howrah Bridge is a suspension type balanced cantilever bridge.”

The super-structure is built up with riveted sections made of a combination of high tensile and mild steel. The bridge deck descends from panel points placed in the middle of the towers. The panel points are located in the lower chord of the main trusses through hungers.

The bridge deck consists of a 71ft carriage way and a 15ft pathway which is projected on both the sides of the trusses and supported by a fascia girder.

The carriage way outside the tower is backed on ground by an anchor arm.

The deck system includes cross girders suspended between pairs of hungers by a pinned connection. Six rows of longitudinal stringer girders are arranged between cross girders. Floor beams support transversally on top of the stringers.

These joists support a continuous pressed steel troughing system surfaced with concrete. Two main expansion joints are placed at the interfaces in the middle of the suspended span and the cantilever arms.

Eight articulation joints exist at the cantilever arms and suspended portions. These joints separate the bridge into segments by a vertical pin connection to allow rotational movements of the deck. The bridge deck features a longitudinal ruling gradient at either end.

The main tower is based on single monoliths with 21 chambers. The minimum vertical clearance of the carriageway is 5.8m and clearance for the river traffic is 8.8m.

Bridge maintenance and upgrades

The articulation joints at deck level were renovated in 2008.

“The construction was supervised by the Howrah Bridge Commissioners.”

The Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) was illuminated in colours of gold and magenta in November 2006.

The bridge operator, Kolkata Port Trust (KPT) invested INR35m in the project for laying 13km of cable, the 700 lights, a new control tower and a sub-station.

Around INR27.3m was spent in 2005 for the maintenance of the bridge.

The pylons, steel-lattice inner structure, under-deck and pathway were fixed with white LEDs and the upper structure was fitted with blue LEDs.

The bridge was painted in June 2005. It required over 26,500l of aluminium paint to cover 23,500t steel occupying a surface area of 2.2m m².

Contractors

The bridge construction contract was awarded to a British firm Cleveland Bridge & Engineering of Darlington on the basis of a global tender invited between 1934 and 1935. The construction was supervised by the Howrah Bridge Commissioners under the guidance of the Commissioners of the Port of Calcutta.

Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) supplied 23,500t of steel and fabrication for the bridge construction. KPT carries out the scheduled maintenance and repair works and also conducts refurbishment or restoration of distressed bridge components.