Built in 1887, the Lansdowne Bridge, also known as Lloyd Bridge, is considered an exceptional piece of British engineering but unfortunately, has no one to look after it.
The bridge, constructed over the River Indus, connects Sukkur with Rohri and after the construction of the Sukkur bypass, it was also used by travellers between Punjab and Sindh.
Constructed by Westwood, Baillie and Company, London, the 908-foot-long bridge was inaugurated by the then Governor of Bombay on March 27, 1889. It was originally meant for rail traffic and was used for this purpose for 73 years from 1889 to 1962. When Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan inaugurated the Ayub Bridge in 1962, which stands next to its predecessor, the rail traffic was shifted to the new bridge.
The Lansdowne Bridge was then designated only for use by motorists and pedestrians – the latter used the wooden walkways at both sides of the bridge. Heavy traffic was not allowed on the bridge after the construction of the Bypass Bridge near the Sukkur barrage.
In need of attention
Despite its past days of glory, the bridge has now been left unattended with none of the authorities stepping forward to look after its maintenance. In the absence of a regulatory body, the bridge has been left to deal with its own problems, including a two-way traffic road which is reportedly in shambles and has craters at multiple points.
A plaque at the Lansdowne Bridge lists data of the 908-foot-long bridge which was originally meant for rail traffic. PHOTO: EXPRESS
The poor condition of the road reportedly causes regular traffic accidents while heavy traffic, including tractor trolleys loaded with bricks and hill sand, frequently pass through the bridge, causing further damage to its road. Police posts of district police and railway police officials have been established at both ends of the bridge — primarily to guard it against any damage and also to stop heavy vehicles from passing through it. But when asked why heavy traffic could be seen plying on the bridge, a railway police official shared his helplessness by simply stating, “What can I do when the officials on the other end don’t stop them?”
According to the tractor trolley drivers, all it takes is payment of Rs50 to the police officials for using the bridge. “We know that heavy traffic is not allowed on this bridge but we have to go through extra miles when using the Sukkur bypass,” said the drivers.
The policemen deployed on both sides, however, denied taking money from any commuter.
Since the road of the bridge hasn’t been carpeted for a long time, the craters are reportedly widening and have become a threat to the commuters.
Abandoned by all
Though the Railway authorities consider the Lansdowne Bridge a key structure from the defence point of view, they are not ready to own it. Former Sukkur Railways divisional superintendent Altaf Hussain Phulpoto clarified that after the rail traffic was shifted to Ayub Bridge in 1962, the Lansdowne Bridge’s responsibility was also moved to the district administration. Sukkur Railways’ divisional executive engineer-I Rasheed Imtiaz Siddiqui also claimed that the district administration was responsible for the bridge’s upkeep. “The district administration recently wrote a letter to us, requesting for manpower to repaint the bridge,” he said, but refused to share a copy of the letter with The Express Tribune.
The Sukkur additional deputy commissioner-I, Suhail Baloch, however, said that the bridge belongs to the railways and they were tasked with looking after it.
Earlier, the railway authorities charged toll tax from the commuters for using the Lansdowne Bridge but this practice was discontinued after orders of the Sindh High Court.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2013.