The 27-km-long Rs 1,000 crore Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway was touted to be a 15-minute zip drive for motorists when it opened last year. That is about the same amount of time motorists now spend crossing just the expressway toll plaza, even when they have smart tags for non-stop travel.
The reason is simple. Motorists paying the toll in cash enter the tag lanes and hold up those who have paid a good amount for a smart tag and a hassle-free journey.
So how do you think DS Constructions, the private concessionaire that has built the expressway, plans to tackle this issue?
Here’s the latest brainwave — setting up kiosks in the middle of the expressway to recharge smart tags, so motorists don’t pay in cash in a tag lane. Within a day, the kiosks sank in heavy rainfall and operations were halted, a DSC spokesman said.
According to DSC, 44 per cent cars in the tag lane are those with no smart tags. The concessionaire needs to come up with better ideas and strict enforcement to keep non-tag users out of the tag lanes.
“DSC is being penny wise and pound foolish. Why are they insistent on providing recharge facilities only at the expressway? These should be made available at neighbourhood stores or malls where one can recharge at one's leisure time,” said P.K. Sarkar, head of transport planning, School of Planning and Architecture.
“They should be more flexible and allow those with zero balance to cross the toll plaza without stopping and pay later. They can call up users and remind them to recharge their tags,” he said.
What is actually required to decongest the tag lanes is stricter enforcement. “If vehicles cannot be fined at the spot then put up cameras to record registration numbers of erring vehicles and send a challan to their homes,” he said.
DSC said it is ensuring stricter monitoring of cash users entering the Tag lane by traffic marshals. The concessionaire said it is doing its best but most motorists only fall in line when they see a traffic policeman, not private traffic marshals.
Also, DSC has built the expressway but it doesn’t have the power to penalise lane violators. That is an issue the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which owns the expressway, can take care of but doesn’t seem too inclined to. The NHAI spokeswoman disconnected our calls despite repeated attempts.
Both of them want the Gurgaon traffic police to fine lane violators. Though they wouldn’t admit this openly, the traffic police are not too inclined to use their limited resources to fine motorists on an expressway run and maintained privately.
“DSC should deploy its men on the expressway but they are not doing so to save costs and expect us to help them. However, we have deployed two policemen at the toll plaza permanently,” said Satender K. Gupta, DCP Traffic, Gurgaon.
Gupta said he is still observing if the recharge kiosk would help in decongesting the tag lane. “In the long run, you would need more tag users to make the expressway a smoother drive,” he said.
What the authorities need is to come up with a better idea to increase the number of smart tag users and not temporary kiosks that a spell of rain would wash down.