Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) proposes to open the third section of the Eastern Freeway, a three-km stretch from Panjarpol to the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road, in the third week of April, a few days before Mumbaikars vote in the general elections.The MMRDA stated on Tuesday that this portion “is expected to be commissioned for traffic in the third week of April, 2014″. The date for the opening has not been decided.
According to the election schedule, Mumbaikars will vote on April 24. Consequently, in keeping with the election code of conduct, the opening of the final stretch of the freeway will not have any fanfare.
Construction of the Eastern Freeway began in January 2008. It was originally planned to run between South Mumbai and Ghatkopar, bypassing the Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in Ghatkopar. But it has been shortened to connect with the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road, some distance before the settlement.
A 13.5-km section from South Mumbai to Panjarpol was inaugurated on June 13, 2013. An estimated 22,000 vehicles use the freeway daily and this is likely to increase when the remaining portion opens next month.
When completed, the 16.84 km road would cost about Rs1,460 crore.
The elevated road has reduced congestion on the old existing thoroughfares in the eastern suburbs, while significantly cutting down the travel time. The MMRDA is working on reducing the size of the rotary at Chembur to streamline the movement of vehicles.
It was meant to be an intrinsic part of the urban dream that Noida was building. A 24.53-km stretch between Noida, a city that has its origins in the 1970′s, and, the more recent, planned extension of Greater Noida. If other satellite towns around the national capital such as Gurgaon constantly despaired on the state of the roads both inside and those leading to the city, the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway was Noida’s answer to motorists’ demand for world-class roads as more and more people drive in high-end and sophisticated cars.
Built by the Jaypee group which has also constructed the Yamuna Expressway, and later handed over to the Noida Authority, the six-lane road was meant to provide a high-speed link between Delhi and Greater Noida, in turn boosting the region’s market value. More than a decade after it was constructed in 2002, the road has stayed true to the promise of high-speed travel. But speed, combined with other logistical failings and lack of police enforcement, has turned the expressway into one of the most dangerous stretches in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The expressway, almost deceptively, is far removed from the chaotic traffic that exists in the areas it connects — Delhi, Noida and Greater Noida. All six carriageways are well-carpeted, tempting drivers to speed. Lush greenery covers the median along the entire length, the road bending gently at places — but never enough to bring the speedometer down considerably. There are no traffic signals and, in concept, there is nothing to prevent an uninterrupted drive. But often, there are visible reminders that a commute was interrupted. A truck upturned on the median, a car damaged beyond recognition. Lives halted midway.
The first of several safety-related issues facing the expressway is pedestrians crossing the road. With the average speed of vehicles exceeding 85kmph, people crossing the road pose a risk to both themselves and the cars that veer dangerously to avoid them. “The reason we have to cross the road is there are no over-bridges. People are forced to cross the road to reach a bus stop on the other side, negotiating vehicles travelling at over 100kmph. We are exposed to danger every single day,” said Amit Gupta, a student at Amity University.
A string of commercial and residential projects have come up on both sides of the expressway, fuelled by good connectivity and Noida-Greater Noida’s growing population. “This has resulted in an increasing number of pedestrians who want to cross the road. Some of these institutions like Amity University and HCL cater to either students or office-goers who run into thousands. A majority of them use public transport and, therefore, have to navigate the expressway. Lack of bus stops at appropriate points and foot over-bridges means accidents are waiting to happen,” a traffic police officer said.
While a large number of establishments have already come up near Noida, large residential complexes such as the Jaypee Wish Town complex are on their way as well. “Construction workers also cross the central verge, often carrying construction material that hampers their mobility. Once these complexes are ready, then residents will try to cross the road. It is imperative that arrangements are made. Either in the form of traffic signals or over-bridges at designated spots,” the officer said.
If the blame for the dearth of civic infrastructure can be laid at the door of the Noida Authority, the district traffic police too has failed to check over-speeding on the stretch. While the speed limit is 100kmph for cars and 60kmph for heavy vehicles and two-wheelers, it is routinely violated. Additionally, vendors selling sugarcane and fruits squat on the periphery of the road with several vehicles stopping by to make purchases. On the days Indian Express visited the expressway, on a weekday and again on a weekend, not one patrol vehicle was visible.
Lack of policing
“There is no deterrence as there are no police vehicles. If there is an accident, this delays investigation as well as reaching medical help to victims,” said Manish Sharma, a resident of Greater Noida who uses the stretch everyday.
Exacerbating the danger posed by high speed is the presence of extremely slow-moving traffic: cycles and other modes of public transport such as tempos. “Since no toll is charged on the road, it is the easiest route for people going from Noida to Greater Noida. There are various pick-up points such as Amity, HCL, the KPMG building and others, where people gather to board tempos,” said Prahlad Kumar, who operates a tempo on the stretch.
Dangerous in the day, the expressway becomes a demon at night. A Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) report states that the most dangerous period is between 10 pm and midnight, a time when trucks and other heavy vehicles use the road.
Speed it may facilitate but the 24.53-km stretch finds itself caught between its conception of a high-speed expressway and lack of sufficient checks and balances to make the drive a safe one. The twain must meet, for lives are at stake.
Leena Dhankhar , Hindustan Times Gurgaon,
The Gurgaon traffic police have asked the concessionaire of the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway to ensure all the cameras installed at Sirhaul and Kherki Daula toll plazas work properly.
Currently, the CCTV cameras installed at the two toll plazas are not in order and unable to capture clear footage. The crime branch of Gurgaon police recently reported the matter to the traffic police.
The crime branch teams were unable to identify the vehicles, their number plates and the drivers crossing the toll. “The footage had poor alignment and the picture quality was bad,” said a police officer.
Bharti Arora, joint commissioner (traffic), told HT, “The crime teams were facing difficulties in identifying the vehicles in the footage. The car numbers and faces of drivers were not being captured properly and the offenders were taking advantage of this.”
The traffic police asked the Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd (DGSCL) to put in order all the CCTV cameras at the earliest so that the culprits could be caught with the help of the footage.
The traffic police asked the firm to intimate the reason for the bad footage quality and the action taken by them in this regard within three days.
“In case of any mishap at the toll plaza, it would be very difficult to apprehend offenders,” said Arora.
Rumu Banerjee, TNN |
(The technology will be fully integrated with the system already in use on the M1 east of Williamstown Road, as well as that planned for the M80 Ring Road.”
Australia has begun the installation of new electronic freeway management technology along the West Gate Freeway in Melbourne, Victoria.
The project includes new signs to inform drivers which lanes they should use and any temporary speed limit changes, as well as closed circuit television, and an upgrade to the supporting communication networks and central control systems.
The technology will be fully integrated with the system already in use on the M1 east of Williams town Road, as well as that planned for the M80 Ring Road.
Scheduled to be completed by mid-2014, the project will provide Melbourne with the tools to better manage traffic flows and respond quickly to accidents and breakdowns.
Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said that the technology will offer faster, safer and less frustrating driving conditions for the 180,000 motorists and truck drivers who use this vital part of the city’s road network every day.
“Indeed if applied nationwide, electronic freeway management systems have the potential to greatly reduce congestion and save Australian families and businesses more than $500 million a year,” the minister said.
The West Gate Freeway project is being funded by the Federal ($12.5m) and Victorian ($12.5m) governments.
West Gate Freeway connects Geelong to Melbourne CBD, and will also act as a link between Melbourne and the west.
It will also connect industrial and residential areas west of the Yarra River with the city and port areas.
Image: Around 180,000 motorists and truck drivers use West Gate Freeway every day. Photo: courtesy of Thiess.