Howrah Bridge is a cantilever bridge with a suspended span over the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India. Commissioned in 1943, the bridge was originally named the New Howrah Bridge, because it replaced a pontoon bridge at the same location linking the two cities of Howrah and Kolkata (Calcutta). On 14 June 1965 it was renamed Rabindra Setu, after the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was the first Indian and Asian Nobel laureate. It is still popularly known as the Howrah Bridge.
The bridge is one of two on the Hooghly River and is a famous symbol of Kolkata and West Bengal. The other bridges are the Vidyasagar Setu (popularly called the Second Hooghly Bridge), the Vivekananda Setu, and the newly built Nivedita Setu. It weathers the storms of the Bay of Bengal region, carrying a daily traffic of approximately 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians, easily making it the busiest cantilever bridge in the World. The third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, the Howrah Bridge is the sixth-longest bridge of its type in the world.
1862 proposal by Turnbull
In 1862, the Government of Bengal asked George Turnbull, Chief Engineer of the East India Railway Company to study the feasibility of bridging the Hooghly River — he had recently established the company's rail terminus in Howrah.
In the view of the increasing traffic across the Hooghly river, a committee was appointed in 1855-56 to review alternatives for constructing a bridge across it. The plan was shelved in 1859-60, to be revived in 1868, when it was decided that a bridge should be constructed and a newly appointed trust vested to manage it. The Calcutta Port Trust was founded in 1870, and the Legislative department of the then Government of Bengal passed the Howrah Bridge Act in the year 1871 under the Bengal Act IX of 1871, empowering the Lieutenant-Governor to have the bridge constructed with Government capital under the aegis of the Port Commissioners.
The Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) is vested with the maintenance of the bridge. The bridge has been subject to damage from vehicles due to rash driving, and corrosion due to atmospheric conditions and biological wastes. On October 2008, 6 high-tech surveillance cameras were placed to monitor the entire 705 metres (2,313 ft) long and 30 metres (98 ft) wide structure from the control room.
Two of the cameras were placed under the floor of the bridge to track the movement of barges, steamers and boats on the river, while the other four were fixed to the first layer of beams — one at each end and two in the middle — to monitor vehicle movements. This was in response to substantial damage caused to the bridge from collisions with vehicles, so that compensation could be claimed from the miscreants.