It is considered to be an engineering marvel, which took six years to construct in the 1940s. Over 2,590 metric tonnes of high tensile steel make up this unique cantilever bridge that joins the main Railway Station (for Calcutta) and the industrial city of Howrah with the city of Calcutta. Supported by two piers, each nearly 90 meters in height above the road level, the bridge has a span of almost 500 meters (no pillars in the middle).
It was opened in 1943 and today it is one of the busiest bridges in the world. It is the third largest bridge in the world, has around 2 million people crossing over it daily. Visible from many places in Calcutta, the bridge is called 'Rabindra Setu'.
The construction of the second Hooghly bridge further downstream has somewhat lessened its load, but still the amount of traffic flowing to and fro is more than what it should ideally be. As such, the condition of this bridge is far from satisfactory. Traffic congestion during the peak hours, gaping holes on the road, the approach on both the banks and the sidewalk encroached by vagrants and hawkers are frequent occurences.
While the bridge cannot be closed totally and maintained as a heritage landmark, strict regulation of traffic and maintenance works should be given top priority. Alternate means of transport like the ferry services could be increased and bulk of the vehicular traffic re-directed to the new bridge, Vidyasagar Setu. It is to be noted that although the second bridge is fully open to traffic now, most people prefer to drive across the Howrah Bridge because Howrah station is practically just at the other end of the bridge.
Moreover, the roads connecting the railway station to the new bridge is not at all suited for speedy communication. Unless the condition of this stretch of road is improved, traffic authorities will find it difficult to persuade drivers of public transport to change their routes and make a detour to reach the station.