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September 26, 2013

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Google Maps unveils live traffic updates, free voice navigation in India

September 19, 2013




Google Maps has introduced live traffic updates and voice navigation in India.

There were rumours on Tuesday that voice navigation would come ‘any time’ after a Google video explaining voice navigation went live. Though the video was pulled out later, the buzz about voice navigation continued.

At present, it looks like the traffic information is available for Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune.

The live traffic updates are available both in the desktop version and Google Maps in Android and iOS. The voice navigation is available in Android.

Free service

The voice navigation — which is free — is likely to affect companies like MapyMyIndia, Navigon and Sygic that sell voice navigation devices and apps.

In the desktop version, the default screen shows live traffic. If you prefer traffic on a particular date and time, it can be changed from the option provided on the bottom left of the map screen.

What has surprised many is the quiet manner in which the eagerly expected feature was rolled out.

There was no announcement. It was the discovery of the video in Youtube that set the tongues rolling, and the features went live late on Tuesday night.

But on Wednesday, Google’s India blog had a post about the updates.

It said: “We’re excited today to announce that both of these features are now available for Google Maps users in India — one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing markets for online map services worldwide. Google Maps Navigation (Beta) is free and accessible to any smartphone user running Android 2.2 or later, and live traffic information is visible on both the mobile and desktop versions of Google Maps.”

It said the live navigation offers directions in Indian accent. “Your phone will announce upcoming directions to you as you move along your route — and it will even use a friendly and familiar Indian accent if you’ve selected the Indian English locale on in your phone settings,” it said.

Live traffic guide

Along with Transit, which provides comprehensive public transport data, Google Maps has taken a step further in offering a complete live transport guide.

It is not known when Google will roll out live traffic updates for rest of the country.

Nokia too offers free voice navigation through Nokia Maps.



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September 19, 2013

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Rescue plan for highway-projects

September 17, 2013


New Delhi, September 15 (IANS): Frustrated by several jammed highway projects, plans are afoot to re-negotiate contracts worth Rs 99,000 crore ($15.2 billion) with some of the private players in a bid to give them payment concessions, instead of imposing penalties.
According to official sources, a grand rescue plan, billed as a one-time measure, is in the final stages of government approval and involves 23 concessionnaires (the private parties) and a total project cost of Rs.34,000 crore ($5.2 billion).
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Road Transport and Highways Minister Oscar Fernandes have okayed a moratorium of 6-10 years on the premia due from them. Law Minister Kapil Sibal has been asked to reconfirm if this plan is legally and constitutionally tenable.
This, even after a senior official in the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General found fault with the proposal and aired the opinion on the relevant file.
Earlier, Sibal had noted that the rescue plan only has financial implications and it was the finance ministry’s opinion, and not his, that was required. In the process, even he had overturned the opinion of a joint secretary in his ministry.
The law officer had said renegotiation was “neither desirable nor permitted at (such) a belated stage… (and was likely to) open a pandora’s box among equally-situated persons having contracts with the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India)”.
The authority is the intended beneficiary of Rs.99,000 crore, as the money is expected to be used by it to build roads elsewhere in the country, mainly as a social obligation.
Sibal’s reconfirmation and the subsequent approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic affairs presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not only defer the payments by 6-10 years but also allow a major discount on the annul premia.
The National Highways Builders Federation, in fact, wants a sweeter deal.
Among the 23 concessionnaires, tasked to build 3,450 km of highways, GMR group was the first to throw its hands up on the 6-laning of a 555-km highway costing Rs.5,387 crore from Kishangarh to Udaipur in Rajasthan and further to Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
The company has a legal liability to pay government-owned highways authority an annual premium of Rs.636 crore. But the nodal ministry has found, instead, that GMR’s annual proceeds from charging toll already exceeds Rs.715 crore. Out of 23 select concessionnaires, some no doubt are in distress. The more fortunately placed are also happy to join the chorus of economic downturn and claims of incapacity to raise the requisite debt or equity. The highways authority has backed this reopening of contracts citing national interest.


Recarpeting of MG Road to be completed in six months: PWD

September 13, 2013

ANCHAL DHAR : Gurgaon,

The re-carpeting and re-construction of MG Road will be completed six months, the Public Works Department (PWD) has said. PWD officials said the heavy vehicular traffic on the stretch was delaying the work.

The work was taken up last month when Gurgaon and Delhi surburbs were witnessing heavy rains. This in turn caused traffic to stop for nearly two hours during peak hours, an official said.

Geeta Parashar, a resident of DLF Phase 2, said, “There seems to be no order at junctions. What is the point of constructing roads when traffic is not regulated and the entire project is poorly managed?”

About two lakh vehicles ply on MG Road — one of the busiest stretches in Gurgaon — daily.

The MG road re-construction began at two points — the Sikanderpur Metro Station and near Guru Dronacharya Metro station. The work was stopped for days due to heavy rains and was resumed in early September.

N K Tomar, Executive Engineer, PWD (B&R) said, “Initially, when the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road was being constructed by the PWD, the commuters were hassled. But after the road was constructed, many have described it as one of the best stretches in Gurgaon. Similarly, due to high vehicular traffic on MG road, the project has seen many delays. At the Sikanderpur Metro station, we blocked the entire carriageway as there was a service road to reroute traffic. At Dronacharya Metro station, we blocked only one side of the carriageway as there was no service lane to divert traffic. The work was slow in these areas keeping the traffic in mind,” he said.

“The work at IFFCO Chowk, which sees maximum traffic, will be carried out towards the end of the project. We intend to divert traffic towards the HUDA City Center Metro station — onto the NH8. The project will take another six months to complete. The PWD and traffic officials are meeting regularly to chalk out plan to avoid any massive traffic disruption in the area,” Tomar said.



Super Corridor bracing up for high-rise buildings

September 13, 2013


INDORE: The Indore Development Authority (IDA) is all set to go for high rise building in the Super Corridor area. IDA shortlisted five consultants, out of 32 which had submitted their proposals here on Saturday. These consultants have been given a month’s duration for submission of their report. Total amount to be invested by IDA for the project is Rs 90 crore.Talking to ToI, CEO of IDA, Deepak Singh, said, “The stage one of the competition for getting the best design and architecture for the proposed high rise, was held here on Saturday. There is a two-member jury from Bhopal comprising Sanjeev Singh, a professor at School of Planning and Architecture, and Sandhya Vyas of Environment Planning and Coordination Organisation (EPCO). It will finally select a single firm to go ahead for the project after screening the report, which will be submitted before the five consultants, that have submitted their report. After that it will take one-month for the finally selected designer to prepare the blueprint of the venue.”Nearly 100 flats are likely to come up, which will be a mix of 2, 3 and 4 BHK flats on the basis of G+20 or beyond. IDA has been given permission to construct the flat on the basis of FAR-3. Going by this norm, IDA can have 1.5 lakh sq ft of built-up area in the region on the basis of 50,000 sq ft of area, where the high rise buildings will be constructed.

Elevated corridor from Dhar Road to Airport Road

September 13, 2013

TNN | Sep 13, 2013, 03.24 AM IST

INDORE: Drive from Dhar Road to Airport Road is going to take less time and congestion-free in a couple of years from now. For an elevated corridor of two-km-long stretch,Indore Development Authority (IDA), IDA board on Thursday appointed a Mumbai-based company to carry out feasibility survey.

IDA CEO Deepak Singh said feasibility survey would be completed in a few months on the basis of which detailed project report (DPR) would be prepared before starting the work on project. With the construction of elevation corridor traffic burden in areas like Chandan Nagar, Gangwal Bus Stand area, Kalani Nagar and Bada Ganpati is expected to reduce and reaching airport will be more comfortable. Currently, residents of Vijay Nagar and Palasia areas have to navigate through narrow lanes of Jawahar Marg and Bada Ganpati areas. The corridor is expected to improve connectivity of airport with other parts of the city.

In another decision, IDA has decided to send a fresh proposal for construction of 2.5 km-long Major Road (MR) 5 to the state government. The road under Master Plan 2021 will be 45 metre wide and starting from Laxmibai Statue tri-section and passing through Wire Square, Itwariya Haat, Swaria Nagar, Suvidhi Nagar and ends at Super Corridor near Bohara Colony crossing.

The board has decided to appoint Gurgaon-based company as transaction advisor for construction of stadium and swimming pool at scheme number 94 on the Ring Road and proposed water park-cum-amusement park at Meghdoot Garden.

The IDA has given its consent for construction of a planetarium at regional park and for this it will donate Rs 1 crore to the IMC.

Congestion charge for improved mobility faces feasibility question

September 10, 2013

Manish Umbrajkar, TNN


PUNE: During his visit to the city last week, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar had said Puneites should be prepared to cough up a congestion charge for better traffic management, in tune with a union government suggestion asking cities to explore imposing a congestion charge to decongest central business areas and improve mobility of people.

But traffic officials in Pune point out that the idea is impractical to implement and one which the municipal corporation has to take a decision on. Civic officials say it’s a “difficult charge” to impose.


 The Union ministry of urban development had in January this year urged state governments to consider introducing congestion charges. This month the ministry has once again asked the authorities to get a proper study done on various aspects of congestion charging system as per the city’s requirement. The ministry has even offered to bear 80% of the study’s cost.

“Mobility in medium and big cities is a huge challenge due to congestion during peak hours, which is mainly due to excessive use of private vehicles. There is a need to resolve the congestion issues urgently for improving mobility of people,” secretary of the Union ministry of urban development, Sudhir Krishna, stated in a letter addressed to all chief secretaries.


‘Excessive use of private vehicles’ on limited road space available is inefficient use of precious urban land. There is a need to discourage the use of private vehicles in select core areas of the city to increase the mobility of people at large, so that they can reach their workplaces, business centres and shops in time, without losing valuable working man hours, Krishna said in his letter. The congestion charge is premised on a basic concept – “charge a price in order to allocate a scarce resource to its most valuable use”. However, before introducing the congestion charge, the pre-condition is that there should be a good public transport system in place in the concerned city and proper facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, Krishna said.


The ministry has also cited case studies of congestion charging in central London and Singapore. “There are several cities the world over where congestion charges in one form or the other area being charged from private vehicles for many years. It is desirable to study the congestion pricing system in these cities in detail, and devise our own method. The results of congestion pricing in foreign cities have been impressive. Traffic in central London went down by about 21% and traffic speeds went up by about 10%,” Krishna wrote.


Municipal commissioner Mahesh Pathak wasn’t convinced with the road congestion tax suggestion for Pune. “It would be very difficult to implement. There are multiple entry or exit points. Moreover, there is no city in the country where such a tax is being collected,” said Pathak.

Senior traffic officials say such a tax should be ideally implemented, since it will help reduce traffic congestion. However, it is for the municipal corporation to decide on levying such a tax, the traffic officials said.


PMC and traffic police proposals on congestion tax

** In August 2007, the then municipal commissioner Pravinsinh Pardeshi had floated the idea of levying a new vehicle tax to arrest the growth of vehicular traffic. The proposed tax was proposed in addition to the registration charges and taxes paid to the Regional Transport Office, and if implemented, it would have been calculated based on the number of vehicles owned by a family. “We need to discourage the number of personal vehicles in the city, which are growing at an alarming speed,” he had said. The proposal did not work out, with staunch political opposition.

** The comprehensive mobility plan of the Pune Municipal Corporation has suggested introduction of both “physical and fiscal measures to discourage use of personal motor vehicles”

** The Pune traffic police in November 2009 sent a proposal to levy congestion charges on some of the busy city roads passing through the central peth areas of the city for reducing traffic. Besides proposing congestion charges, the traffic police had also stressed on the need to ban four-wheelers and two-wheelers on some busy roads, and turn them into walkways for citizens. The proposal also said that heavy parking charges should be collected from vehicle owners in the congested areas


Source- http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com


Incorrigible expressway firm

September 9, 2013

Siddhartha Rai, Hindustan Times  Gurgaon,

 There’s much hue and cry nowadays about the alleged inefficiency of the concessionaire in operating the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, but the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and a parliamentary committee had two years ago slammed the firm, and pulled up the Centre and its highways body for “favouring” it.

According to the CAG’s performance audit of the expressway and the concessionaire’s functioning that was presented to the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in December, 2009, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the government of India (GoI) worked in a callous way that led to the “unjustified enrichment of the concessionaire”.

  “There are so many violations that the concessionaire has been doing but unfortunately nothing has happened so far. The concessionaire recovered its investment in the very first year of operating the highway in January, 2008. This had been mentioned in the CAG report as well,” said JP Singh, president of NH–8 Highway Welfare Association.


(The Sirhaul toll plaza near Ambience Mall on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway witnesses heavy traffic jams during peak office hours. Sanjeev Verma/ HT photo)

Based on the CAG’s audit of the expressway just 20 months after it started commercial operation, a parliamentary committee noted gross irregularities in the entire process through which DGSCL was granted the project and thus cast aspersions on the procedural fairness of the project.

The committee started with its doubts over the change of the mode of execution from one based on a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to the build-operate-transfer model despite it not being viable one. It went on to note that the preferred model had proved to be detrimental to people’s interests and had caused financial losses to the exchequer.

“The whole scenario gives an impression that the government was more interested in fulfilling the commercial interest of the concessionaire instead of serving public interest,” observed the committee. According to the report, NHAI and GoI flouted every norm in the book.

The committee also held RITES equally responsible for the expressway muddle as severe deficiencies were pointed out by the CAG in its detailed project report. It led to change in scope of work orders worth hundreds of crores of rupees.

“This reflects the lack of professional competence on the part of the NHAI in handling the project and points to a defective system of assessment prevailing in the organisation,” observed the committee.

The CAG report also noted that inadequate traffic surveys were used to fix the concession period, which, according to its own estimates, should have been just 14 years instead of 20.

“A logical fallout of this scenario would be that the concessionaire would gain R187 crore during the extended concession period,” said the parliamentary committee. In the first 20 months of operation, the concessionaire had collected R208 crore of the R555-crore that the project was worth.

One of the many other contentions of the CAG was that though this stretch was expected to be an extremely high-traffic corridor, “strangely, the toll rates were fixed on the basis of the worst-case scenario situation”.

The parliamentary committee also noted that “undue haste has been shown in giving the completion certificate to the concessionaire” and it expressed “strong reservation over the manner in which the completion certificate was issued”.

DGSCL was given the final completion certificate in August, 2009 despite the fact that it had not fulfilled the requisite conditions.

The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, the committee observed, had failed to serve the purpose for which it was conceived and executed — a social welfare measure — and the complicity of all agencies involved stands vindicated in the face of the huge public outcry against them.



Finally, multi-level parking opens at Karol Bagh today

September 5, 2013

  • Ritam Halder , Press Trust of India

NEW DELHI: After a three-year delay, a three-level automated stack parking lot will open in the busy Karol Bagh on Thursday.The facility involves a mechanical lift that stacks vehicle at different levels.

The parking lot, located on Sat Bhirawan Road in Karol Bagh, was to be completed before the Commonwealth Games in 2010. But it missed several deadlines since 2009, when the plan was conceptualised.

The facility is expected to de-congest Karol Bagh — a prominent market area in the Capital — that faces a severe parking problem.

Local councillor Rajesh Bhatia said the new parking lot would help tackle the problem of congestion in Karol Bagh. “This project was being delayed for the past four years because of apathy on the part of civic body officials,” Bhatia said.

The parking rates at the new lot will be R10 for two hours and R10 for every subsequent two hours. The maximum charge for a whole day is R50 per day. The rates are a little higher than other surface parking lots run by the civic bodies. Vehicles at other municipal surface parking lots can be parked for R10 for 10 hours and R20 for 24 hours.

Experts reacted with caution when asked about the efficacy of the new system to address parking woes in the Capital.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director for research and advocacy of the Centre for Science and Environment, said a lot of factors needed to be considered before taking up any innovation. “There are several technologies available. The site and its approach play an important role in the usefulness of a parking innovation. The issue of lack of space is taken care of with this technology but it’s expensive,” Roychowdhury said.

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation has around 120 parking sites under its jurisdiction, of which 62 were tendered a few months back. A survey has been done for 100 other sites, of which 25 have been sent for traffic clearance. It also has four multi-level parking sites.



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