Delhi’s unprecedented July floods led to a pile-up of silt and shifted heavy structures at the underpass being built along the Bhairon Marg, which will now be delayed well beyond this year, officials said on Monday.
The underpass No 5 is part of the Pragati Maidan integrated transit corridor, and was first meant to have opened in December 2022. The complicated nature of the work — the underpass runs through a section with an active railway overbridge — meant it was delayed and a new deadline set for before the G20 Summit this month.
But work has been halted since July, when the Yamuna swelled to a record 208.33m, inundating large parts of the Capital.
At the heart of the problem is the technique used to make the underpass. The Public Works Department (PWD) uses what is known as box-push technique. As the name suggests, fabricated boxes that are open on either ends are pushed in, creating the solid form of the tunnel. These boxes are pushed in through embankments of rail or road by jacking system.
“Completing this stretch was already a difficult task with active railway lines overhead. Following the July floods, there was a lot of sediment in the area that is making it difficult to push the boxes. We need to remove the silt and treat the soil before we start pushing again. Besides, the boxes have shifted from their positions as these are not stitched to each other yet. These factors have caused serious delays,” said a senior PWD official aware of the development.
PWD has now written to the Indian Railways seeking help in removing the deposits and getting the boxes in place. Officials added that work can only resume after monsoon when the area is completely dry.
“We have written to Indian Railways asking if they have any technology that we can use to clear the uneven settlements and start pushing the boxes. No work can be done for now till the rain completely stops. So, anything can be done only after around another 20 days,” said another PWD official, who did not wish to be named.
Indian Railways officials did not respond to HT’s requests for comments on the development.
The integrated corridor was constructed to provide seamless connectivity to the Pragati Maidan complex as well as decongesting surrounding arterial roads such as Ring Road, Mathura Road and Bhairon Marg.
Officials said that the total length of underpass number 5 — also referred to as the Bhairon Marg-Ring Road underpass — is 110m, with work remaining on a 28m-long section.
The underpass was expected to be completed by December last year but could not be due to various issues. Since the underpass is close to the banks of the Yamuna, the area is susceptible to inundation due to water from the river, officials said. Moreover, officials said the presence of three active railway lines above the site of the underpass hindered construction.
Eventually, the 1.3-km-long main Pragati Maidan tunnel, along with five other underpasses, was inaugurated for the public in June 2022. Underpass 5 was then expected to be completed by the end of 2022 but then was delayed again due to flooding. Officials say that the underpass is unlikely to be completed this year.