Commuters’ woes around south Delhi’s infamous traffic choking point—the Ashram intersection—are not likely to end any time soon. Transport experts say that the stretch is not just an example of poor planning, but also faces apathy from authorities and the public.
“Ashram is a typical example of all things that could go wrong at a busy traffic intersection. What it needs is effective traffic management. The authorities could also think of diverting traffic before reaching the Ashram intersection,” Sendil Kumar, transport researcher at IIT-Delhi, said.
For almost a year, commuters have had to bear the brunt of incessant road repairs by the Public Works Department (PWD) and the delay in construction by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
Metro officials said the barricades will be taken off soon, which will enable normal traffic movement to resume on the stretch. However, this has given little consolation to commuters who claim that the authorities are merely passing the buck.
“We have kept commuter convenience in mind. A traffic research was conducted for us by an engineering consultancy agency which was also approved by the Delhi Traffic Police before the construction work was started. We have also left more than 21 metres of road space which is much more than the prescribed space for traffic movement,” said Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications) of DMRC.
Being an arterial road—which is a connecting link between central, south, and east Delhi—the commuters have no other option but to use this stretch for transit -- knowing that the traffic here moves at snail’s pace during peak hours.
Roads dug up for Metro construction, constant road repair, lack of ample traffic officials to man traffic, and illegal parking on the sides of the roads have made the situation worse for commuters who are often stuck in incessant jams.
Vinay Kumar Rai, who was spotted at the Ashram bus stop on Sunday, said he had boarded the bus early on Sunday to reach Maharani Bagh (his parents’ house) from Noida to attend his younger brother’s birthday party. However, the early departure did not help as the long jam around Okhla, Govindpuri and New Friends Colony delayed him.
“I had planned to reach home early today but here the jams on a Sunday too are just as bad as it is during weekdays. The bus was stuck in the jam for about 45 minutes. I decided to walk from Kalkaji to Ashram and it took me half an hour to reach here,” he said.
Commuters also complained that it is very rare to find a traffic official on the stretch. However, the Delhi traffic police officials refuted the allegation. “We have a team of traffic officials especially deployed at the junction and according to the severity of the traffic more officials are added. During peak hours when the traffic is heavy it is our team which ensures that there is no logjam. But the construction activities on the stretch surely makes things difficult,” said a senior traffic official.
The official said the construction by the Delhi Metro had eaten up most of the road space and the sheer number of vehicles which cross the stretch makes manning this intersection very difficult.
“An entire carriageway has been taken up for construction work which would obviously make passage difficult. It is temporary,” the official said.
Residents around the area and regular commuters complain that the helplessness which the traffic police show is a mere farce to hide their inefficiency.
“The stretch is better than many other junctions in the city when it comes to its road design and width of road. The problem here is only of lack of proper enforcement. One traffic official at the intersection at peak hours can assess which carriageway is experiencing more traffic and clear the stretch accordingly. This is all it takes but it is unnecessarily made out to be a Herculean task,” said Pragati Kapoor, a resident of Maharani Bagh.