The first image that comes to our mind when we think of Kolkata is the Howrah Bridge. It is the gateway to the City of Joy. The Howrah Bridge has even been immortalized in various Indian and International films and is a filmmaker’s delight for its sheer magnificence and expanse. The bridge which is also known as the Rabindra Setu is an engineering marvel and is one of the busiest cantilever bridges in the world. The Howrah Bridge is built over the river Hooghly and connects the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah and also connects Kolkata to the Howrah railway station. The bridge is currently in use as a road bridge but earlier there was a tram track as well which was later discontinued due to excessive traffic congestion on the bridge. Carrying over a lakh vehicles and over two million commuters everyday the bridge is also one among the busiest bridges in the world.
The bridge was built between 1937 and 1943 at an estimated cost of three hundred and thirty three crores.It was made open to the public on February 1943.Made up using 26500 metric tones of high tensile steel, this architectural wonder is constructed entirely by riveting. There is not a single nut or bolt that has been used in the entire construction. The bridge is seven hundred and five metres long and ninety seven feet wide. It has a central span of 1500 ft between the centers of the main towers. The main towers of the bridge are 280 ft high above the monoliths and are76 ft apart at the top. Two piers each above ninety metres in height support the bridge. The unique bridge is built in a way that allows it expand by as much as a meter during a summer day.
The bridge has undergone many changes since it was built. In 1874 the Floating Pontoon bridge was made on the Hooghly after realizing the growing importance of Kolkata and Howrah. However there was a problem since during high tides the bullock carts could not pass through and this resulted in huge traffic jams. The traffic reached fever pitch and with time the floating Pontoon bridge was unable to take its load. All these factors made the Government decide to commission a new bridge. In i933 the construction of the Howrah bridge was commissioned. The work of constructing the bridge was awarded to Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company and work on the bridge commenced in 1936 under the strict guidance of The Howrah Bridge Commissioners. In February 1943 the old Pontoon bridge was decommissioned after sixty nine years of service.
The bridge has eight lanes and presently carries over two million commuters daily. The bridge looks majestic during the day and you can have the best view of the bridge from the middle of the Hooghly.The bridge is brilliantly illuminated at night and is a spectacular sight to behold. You can see the ferries that move from Howrah station to different points on the banks of the Hooghly as they cross under the bridge. The bridge is open round the clock except for Interstate transport buses, All India tourist buses and goods vehicles.