Ahmedabad/Construction of infrastructure and corresponding change in old fabrics after railway

The introduction of Bombay Baroda & Central India railway to Ahmedabad had triggered the changes to the infrastructure in the city and the old city wall. It enhanced the formation of the road network within and outside the old city.

At first, It brought about the decay of some original infrastructure. Since 1850, the locals had been funding on the construction of roads. A military and trade highway from the port of Gogha to Ahmedabad was built. However, due to the decay of trade and the construction of the Bombay & Baroda Railway, the highway was deserted and no longer put into use.

After the opening of railway, firstly, the British government built the Prem Darwaja and the Panchkuva Darwaja (Darwaja: gate) at the east side of the city wall in 1864. The gates pierced through the old city wall and introduced openings from the old city to the new railway city, which provided linkage from the north and south Ahmedabad to the railway station. They not only had architectural importance, but also served as a traffic junction between the old city and the railway station.

Map of Ahmedabad in 1879 © 1879, R. E. Enthoven
Map of Ahmedabad in 1879 © 1879, R. E. Enthoven. Prem Darwaja and Panchkuwa Darwaja are circled.

 

Prem Darwaja © 2011, Tarkik Patel                   Panchkuva Darwaja © 2012, AhmedabadMuslims
Prem Darwaja © 2011, Tarkik Patel                                               Panchkuva Darwaja © 2012, AhmedabadMuslims

Following the construction of the gates, the old city was open up to the railway station, and major and minor roads were constructed to improve the connection between the railway and the inner city: “from the Ahmedabad railway station to the cantonment, one and a half miles;… from the railway station to the Bharvari and the Golvari gates of Viramgam, 1080 and 1845 feet respectively…Altogether there are now (1878) in the district 373 miles of made roads.” (Campbell, 1879) Important towns and villages had been connected by cleared and vehicle-passable tracks. Roads were built to connect the railway, the old walled city of Ahmedabad, and the river at the west.

Bridges were also constructed to support the railway transportation network. Originally, the Ellis Bridge was built above the river of Bhogava in 1870. It formed an important link in the great line of communication between the east and west side of Ahmedabad old city: it connected almost the whole Ahmedabad district, the railway station and the terminus of Wadhwan extension of the Bombay and Baroda railway, which is at the west of the Ahmedabad old walled city. (Campbell, 1879) After it was destroyed in the 1875 flood, a new bridge was rebuilt in the same year to relink the whole district.

A comparison of the map of Ahmedabad from 1866 to 1914. The red lines highlighted the new main roads added compared to the previous map.
A comparison of the map of Ahmedabad from 1866 to 1914. The red lines highlighted the new main roads added compared to the previous map.

Studying a more detailed map of Ahmedabad in 1988 (attached at the end of this article), it is interesting to see that the road pattern seems unplanned and messy overall, which is a result of organic city growth. After the opening of the BB & CI railway, it can be seen that main roads has cut through the city in east-west direction to link the railway station at the east side and the bridges at the west side. However, like the major and minor roads constructed before, they were not planned in a straight line. It is possibly due to the organic pattern of the old city.

In conclusion, the railway station has not only improved the communication from Ahmedabad to the other cities, but also broke through the old city wall, enhanced the traffic in east-west direction, and helped to build up the road network within the old city itself by connecting the railway station to different junctions. It can be seen that the introduction of infrastructure can stimulate the formation of the whole infrastructure network. The addition of new nodes to the urban network influences the other nodes and brings new connections, thus improving the overall connectivity of the network system. It could furthermore bring about the extension of the city. However, Some of the pols (residential neighborhoods) in the city were also demolished when new roads were laid out and existing roads widened. It is hard to avoid as sacrifice always have to be made for the development of city infrastructure.

Pols demolished to create new roads in the city. © 1982 by S. Sejpal
Pols demolished to create new roads in the city. © 1982 by S. Sejpal
Map of Ahmedabad in 1866 © 1866, Theodore C. Hope
Map of Ahmedabad in 1866 © 1866, Theodore C. Hope
Map of Ahmedabad in 1879 © 1879, R. E. Enthoven
Map of Ahmedabad in 1879 © 1879, R. E. Enthoven
Map of Ahmedabad in 1914 © 1914, Verlag von Karl Baedeker
Map of Ahmedabad in 1914 © 1914, Verlag von Karl Baedeker
Ahmedabad detailed city map © 1988, G. Michell and S. Shah
Ahmedabad detailed city map © 1988, G. Michell and S. Shah

Reference:

J.M.Campbell Ed. (1879)  Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Volume IV: Ahmedabad. Bombay: Government Central Press.

S. Sejpal (1982) Theory and City Form: The Case of Ahmedabad (master thesis). Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institue of Technology.

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