After pondering over various proposals to strengthen the local public transport system, the state government has finally launched the ambitious Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), a favourite project of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal for this holy city, which reels under tremendous traffic woes, congestion and the lack of a modern transport system.
The BRTS project, designed on the pattern of the Ahmedabad model, was announced by the deputy CM a few months ago amid much fanfare and if the government is to be believed, the project will not only change the road infrastructure of the city but also ensure a comfortable ride for the residents to various local destinations.
Although the project is at a very initial stage and the authorities are currently working on widening its route, PWD officials claim that it will be fully completed by December 2015.
The project that would cost around Rs 600 crore will see a fleet of 93 AC buses plying on the city roads. Under the first phase of the project, buses will ply on four routes that will cover a major part of the city. These buses, which will run on a dedicated passage in most of the areas, will traverse on the elevated passage at a couple of points. In some areas, where there is a paucity of space, theses buses will merge with the local traffic.
The BRTS project will provide a major relief by constructing an additional loop over the congested Bhandari Bridge. This will not only decongest the bridge but also give a speedy passage to travellers coming from Delhi.
Hoping for a better public transport system since long, the holy city earlier saw its dream shattered when the Punjab government’s ambitious ‘Pods project’ had crashed. But now with work starting on the BRTS, the citizens hope that the government is likely to turn this much-hyped project into reality.
Besides all AC buses, the BRTS project will have modern bus stations with various facilities and waiting areas and dedicated paths. Apart from running on the elevated road, the buses will also have a 3-km additional elevated passage from local Celebration mall to Verka Chowk. The project will also see a railway over-bridge coming up on the Verka rail crossing. This will also decongest the area.
Talking to HT, PWD executive engineer JS Sodhi said, “This is one project that can bring a strong public transport system for the city. We have already started the process of roadwidening. Currently, cutting of trees and displacement of the electricity poles are going on. In the first phase, we will cover routes from India Gate to Daburji, India Gate to Verka, Verka to Daburji, India Gate to railway station”.
On the 30-km route of the BRTS project, there will be, on an average, two bus stations over a distance of 1 km. The routes will touch all important points in the Civil Line area and also pass through areas including railway station, Crystal Chowk, Bhandari Bridge, Court Road, Hussainpura Chowk, SSSS Chowk, Verka and outside the Hall Gate, he told.
Regarding the fierce criticism faced by the authorities over felling of trees in the city, Sodhi said, “We are also unhappy over the tress being cut. But they are coming in the way of this project and there was no other option. However, we are trying our best to save as many as trees as possible and new plantation is also being done to compensate for the trees being felled”.
To a question, Sodhi said, “There are 1,187 trees which are coming in the way of this project. Of these, 802 will be cut whereas 385 will be saved”.
A team of MC officials had visited Ahmedabad to study the BRTS project which was launched their earlier. They will go on another trip to the Gujarat capital, if need be, for the fine-tuning of the project, he said. The work on the BRTS project has been divided into seven corridors and the construction job has been allotted to various agencies, he added.
FELLING OF TREES INVITES CRITICISM
As a large number of trees have been cut all over the city to make way for the BRTS project, it has invited tremendous criticism from not only various NGOs but also some politicians, including leaders of the BJP, the ruling coalition partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal. These include chief parliamentary secretary, Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, and BJP national senior vice-president Laxmi kanta Chawla.
They have organised vociferous protests on the roads and criticised the government for felling old trees. A protest was also held against the municipal corporation outside its office during a meeting of the MC House a few days back.
Chawla and CPS Sidhu have openly criticised the felling of trees and demanded that the route of the BRTS be changed to save the green cover in the city.
Notably, several trees have been cut on the Ajnala Road, University Road, Court Road and many other areas.