A notable landmark, Sylhet’s Keane Bridge, is still a star attraction to many visitors to Sylhet. Until 1986, the only way to cross from the south over the Surma River was Keane Bridge. A second bridge was constructed in 1986 which now takes all of the heavy traffic.
Keane Bridge is named after Sir Michael Keane (b.1874– d.1937). Sir Michael was the Governor of Assam and constructed the bridge in 1936. Considering the importance of Sylhet town it was felt by the Government of India that Sylhet needed improved infrastructure and through the provincial Government of Assam of which Sir Michael Keane was Governor the bridge was built. It is 395 metres long and 5.5 metres wide. It is a steel truss bridge and such bridges are one of the oldest types of modern bridges. A truss bridge is economical to construct owing to its efficient use of materials. However despite this it was built at a cost of Tk56 lakh.
The bridge is really in a poor state of repair for a major thoroughfare. During the liberation war in 1971, a portion of the bridge was blown off by dynamite. After the war, the bridge was repaired and opened for light vehicles. Bangladesh Railway repaired the bridge with concrete metals in 1977. The bridge however remained weak and consequently in the interests of safety only light vehicles are permitted.
In reality the most common mode of transport now using the bridge are rickshaws. A rickshaw ride across the bridge will necessitate the help of one of the army of men and boys waiting to help push the rickshaw up the slope in exchange for Tk2. You may often hear the rickshawwallah shout at the helper for not really pushing and allowing the rickshawallah to do the majority of the pulling
Over the years there has been various talk of replacing the ageing bridge not least a proposal to by the BNP at one time to build a Hanging Bridge over the river. Until a replacement comes along Keane Bridge will remain to many the bridge over River Surma.