The Ashram intersection in South Delhi has everything that should ensure a smooth drive — a long signal free stretch leading to a flyway, flyovers, foot over-bridge with escalators for pedestrians and free left turns. The junction, where a national highway meets Delhi’s arterial Ring Road, however, is also a major traffic bottleneck.
Amit Bhan, an interior decorator, travels from Faridabad to South Extension everyday and has to cross the Ashram intersection at peak hours. “When the flyover at the intersection was under construction, I was anticipating a hassle free commute. Five years later, the situation has not improved,” said Bhan. “Things are going from bad to worse.”
The major reason for the perennial traffic snarl on the intersection is the huge volume of traffic. The highway sees a huge movement of vehicles everyday, part of which merges with the traffic from the busy Ring Road. A large number of motorists travel through the intersection to reach Noida by the flyway and East Delhi through NH-24. The road leading towards Bhogal and Jangpura is also narrow and remains clogged.
Motorists coming from South Extension have a relatively smooth run till Lajpat Nagar but land in a mess as soon as they touch the flyover.
Traffic merges with that coming from Mathura road only to segregate again for Sarai Kale Khan and Noida. This adds to the confusion, leading to slowing down of traffic and congestion on this small stretch.
“The sheer volume of vehicles makes it an arduous task,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) S.N. Shrivastava. There are other reasons as well behind the daily chaos.
“There are design faults in the intersection that leads to the chaos,” said S.M. Sarin, former Director of Central Road Research Institute. Sarin said there is only one straight flyover in the intersection on the Ring Road. However, traffic coming and going towards different directions, 12 movements in total, still has to use the ground. An integrated or cloverleaf flyover would have helped.
The widths of all the arms of the intersection are not equal. Width of Mathura Road falls way short to accommodate the volume coming from Badarpur border. Also, traffic coming from Mathura Road and going towards Sarai Kale Khan mixes with traffic coming from Ring Road near Maharani Bagh where the road width is very narrow, Sarin said.
Also, motorists often do not have lane discipline that leads to chaos when the traffic light turns green for them. P.K. Sarkar, head of transport department, School of Planning and Architecture said the lack of auxiliary lanes puts more pressure on the already narrow roads. “Better traffic management is also required on the lanes and if possible, traffic marshals should be deployed there,” he said.
“It is known that the number of vehicles is increasing by the day. What is missing is congestion management plan,” points out Rohit Baluja, president of the Institute of Road Traffic Education. “Had the planners had origin/destination data for such intersections, things would have been easy,” Baluja said.
Trucks plying on the road pose another problem even though they are supposed to enter Delhi only after 9 pm. “It was about 3 a.m., our vehicle was coming from Lajpat Nagar and as usual the cab driver stopped at the red light. And before we realised, we were waiting there for more than 20 minutes because a truck had jumped a red light and stopped midway, leading to a pile-up” said Ananya Chowdhary, a BPO employee.
The way out
Experts say that traffic diversions and alternate routes are the only short-term solution to ease traffic congestion on the intersection. “The volume of vehicles coming from and going towards Agra using the Mathura Road is huge. If this highway traffic is shifted to an alternative route, the intersection can be de-congested,” said Nalin Sinha, Programme Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
“We are planning to install boulevards for a longer distance on the edge of the flyover so that the traffic coming from below the flyover and above it can merge a little more away from the junction,” Shrivastava said.
Similarly, the bus stop for buses headed towards Sarai Kale Khan may be shifted a little farther on the ring road. Traffic personnel are also carrying out a study to assess vehicular volume and nature of traffic to ease the congestion.