When it comes to the options that a commuter in distress has while dealing with emergencies on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway, the list is neither long nor comforting. Making matters worse, the facilities are, on most occasions, dysfunctional.
There are 26 SOS booths along this 27.7-kilometre-lomg stretch of National Highway-8 from where commuters can supposedly make calls to the control room during emergencies. But, most of them do not work and leave stranded commuters confused, especially when they fail to connect to the toll-free number.
The toll operator, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL), claims that there are hardly any calls made through the SOS booths as people prefer calling the toll-free number directly. Regular commuters, however, say that cannot be an excuse for not maintaining the SOS booths and ensuring their functionality.
“There are many commuters who are not regulars on the expressway; they might not know about the toll-free number. So, the first thing they would turn to in case of an accident or a similar such situation at an unmanned spot of the expressway is the SOS booth. The expressway is supposed to be a world-class project; the concessionaire needs to maintain the emergency facilities,” said a resident of Old Gurgaon.
The concessionaire, however, has its own share of woes.
A DGSCL spokesperson said that often these SOS booths are vandalised by local people who steal batteries and costly telephone instruments that have to be replaced.
“We have repeatedly complained to the local police about these incidents and sought their help. At present we are repairing those SOS booths which have been vandalised and therefore some of them are not working,” the spokesperson added.
DGSCL claims to have 150 traffic marshals positioned at various entry and exit points along the expressway and near the toll plazas, besides having a separate team of 130 patrolling personnel for the entire length of the expressway around the clock to ensure that breakdown and emergency situations are speedily catered to.
However, according to a reality check by Hindustan Times, the 150-odd traffic marshals do not carry walkie-talkies and are often helpless in relaying information in emergency situations.