Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway: Job Unfinished

November 16, 2010

These days driving on the Delhi Gurgaon Expressway in Peak Hours, perhaps you are asking yourself, what must be the traffic condition at toll plaza and at entry road to my office? How much time is needed? Will the traffic move fast or slow? It’s been more than 2 years since the highway became operational but the degree of difficulty in driving on this has increased sharply in recent months as more and more sections are
becoming congested.

Delhi Gurgaon Expressway

When Delhi Gurgaon Expressway was conceived by NHAI, the main objective was to provide high-speed connectivity between Delhi and the commercial hub, Gurgaon. However, today instead of providing speed connectivity it has become a subject of argument between, NHAI, Concessionaire and planning authorities of Haryana and New Delhi.

January 2008 marked the completion of the much-awaited Delhi Gurgaon Expressway but due to lack of proper planning, poor traffic forecasting, unplanned traffic management, poor urban design and lack of traffic enforcement it became a nightmare for the users. Further the increased traffic added to the mess in management of the highway and concessioner faced a huge challenge in starting the operations.

It is very sad to see this highway in such a sorry state of affairs where the issues are not addressed by the stakeholders but just being passed on to each other. Today, contrary to high expectations, this highway is just another ordinary road and is not able to give a nice driving experience to the road users and leave a good impression on the users.

The aesthetic perception for highway user is very bad indeed which conjures up images of choked Hero Honda road with overflowing drain water, poor service roads, narrow entries and exists, poor landscaping and toll plaza lanes welcoming commuters with choked lanes and driver criss crossing the lanes. This highway in the National Capital Region of India is far from creating an impression on any visitor from abroad who touches it when he enters the city and suburbs. It is a far away from the natural landscape and aesthetic quality which we can see internationally in all highways. Concessionaire was given the design with which he has to construct and operate now.

Expert highway planners and traffic engineers were not able to envisage for amenities required for the highway. The high cost of right-of-way acquisition generally prohibited the creation of buffer zones between highway and neighbourhood. Bridges, overpasses, skyways, fencing, sound barriers and interchanges that are a basic necessity on this stretch were not envisaged and now after development these are being accommodated in an unplanned manner. These unplanned and graceless structures are not well designed and lacks the aesthetic appearance.

The biggest challenge on this highway in the coming years would be circulation of traffic. Traffic planning and enforcement has not been addressed adequately leaving concessionaire of the highway helpless. For more than 50 villages on both sides of the road, this is another massive freeway which is used without payment of any toll, without any policy and without any documented right since they were overlooked at the planning stage. Today the challenge for the office going people is not just to drive on this but taking the entries and exits on this as well. All entries and exists are narrow and curvy lacking center lines and ample shoulders. At peak hours it takes more than 40 minutes which is almost double the time for crossing the highway. Prime commercial areas and prime residential localities of Gurgaon close to these exits and entries are facing the
heat of this oversight.

Since it began operation, safety has been a big issue and it has also achieved the notoriety of being called “The Killer Highway”. There are only limited over-bridges along the entire stretch to cater to the communities living on either side of the heavily populated areas through which the expressway runs. Right from fencing to over-bridges, everything is being implemented on a need basis now. Few issues are still un-addressed like movement of two-wheelers which is almost equal to the existing traffic on the expressway and effort has not been made even to count them so that some planning can be done for accommodating them on this highway. Half completed service roads and poor signages have also added risk to the users on the highway.

This development is not without its drawbacks – traffic congestion is a serious issue, especially at the toll plaza. During peak hours, it can easily take up to 15 minutes to cross the toll plaza which would have taken a minute to cross if managed properly. The highway operations staff needs lot of training in highway management and operations. The benefits that construction of this expressway offered in terms of employment and connectivity is outweighed by traffic congestion. The toll plaza at the Delhi-Gurgaon border has also proved inadequate in handling the increasing traffic, leading to traffic jams during peak hours. Though the plaza is tag enabled, only 35-40 percent of the traffic that passes through avails of this facility and that too with lot of mess.

From dense fog in winters to scorching heat waves in summers, from over loaded truck on the main highway to two wheelers zipping from all directions, from the encroached service roads in Haryana to un- authorized parking on service roads, from high speed to bad traffic etiquettes on Expressway, from Cash Users in Tag Lanes to Blacklisted Tag users, from lack of Basic Amenities to power failures in highway lighting, from lack
of VMS signages to stray animals on Highway, there are lot of issues that need to be addressed in Highway Management.

Highways are not only meant for driving. Internationally highways are meant to give a pleasant experience to the users where they feel safe to drive and reach their family and home in time. Aesthetics of expressway in terms of median, edges, lighting and road furniture is developed in such a fashion that it adds to the driving experience. The idea is to choose pleasing aesthetic solution which appeals to the users without compromising the safety issues of the highways.

To conclude, the Delhi Gurgaon Expressway has not only made developed localities of Gurgaon more accessible, it has also facilitated development of new localities. Master Plan 2021 has opened many sectors for development which benefitted with better connectivity after completion of this expressway. However, the quality of services on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway might get worse if not addressed on time. Gurgaon is already booming and it needs improved connectivity and a sharp reduction in travel time, both within the city as well as to and from the national capital. All stake holders and people involved in this project need to sit together and seriously deliberate to address all outstanding issues. A time bound plan for addressing these issues can be done only by a truly innovative way of thinking about the freeway in the urban environment.

All said and done, much work still remains to be done……

Sachin Sharma
Executive President -Infrastructure
Bajaj Hindusthan Ltd