Commuters were stuck in traffic for close to four hours on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway after six entry-exit points at Signature Tower were blocked on Friday morning.
Expressway concessionaire Millennium City Expressway Private Limited (MCEPL) shut the points in an attempt to fulfil the clauses of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) it had signed with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in 2014.
The MoU, submitted in the Punjab and Haryana high court (HC), lists several tasks that MCEPL needs to carry out to ease traffic on the expressway and make the stretch safe for commuters.
“We closed the entry-exit points as per the MoU admitted in the HC. There are six locations which are to be closed and Signature Tower was the first. Letters were sent to the Gurgaon police after an inspection by the highway administration including NHAI, which decided to block the points,” said S Raghuraman, CEO, MCEPL.
Blocking the entry-exit points at Signature Tower during the morning rush hour was part of MCEPL’s exercise to streamline traffic on the expressway.
Instead, the move choked both sides of the expressway, with vehicles queuing up to Rajokri flyover and Mahipalpur.
The Gurgaon traffic police could do little to ease the congestion on the expressway as MCEPL had not informed them about the move in advance, it claimed. “Despite no fault, the police get all the flak. If someone files a complaint, we will take cognizance of the matter,” Navdeep Singh Virk, Gurgaon police commissioner said.
But, MCEPL and the expressway operator, Skylark, said that they had written to the authorities concerned on August 8, informing them about the exercise.
Amid this chaos, many commuters missed their flights and ambulances were caught in the four-hour traffic jam, while the police struggled to clear the congestion. Cars could be seen moving on pavements.
Businessman Ashok Nandal, who was headed to the airport, took 45 minutes to reach Bata Chowk from Sector 14. “I missed my flight. I returned home from Bata Chowk as there was no way that I could have crossed the traffic jam,” said Nandal.
The traffic spilled on to arterial roads with vehicles stranded from Iffco Chowk to Sikanderpur Metro station and Atul Kataria Chowk. Old Delhi-Gurgaon Road, the stretch from Signature Tower to Sheetla Mata Road and the road to Huda City Centre Metro station were choc-a-block.
Commuters vented out on Twitter – one of them posted: #traffic in #Gurgaon. It should have been named as ‘Jamnagar’.
The jam cleared around 12 noon after the police brought in a crane to remove the jersey barriers at the entry-exit points.
Meanwhile, MCEPL has to report to the HC about the obligations it has fulfilled under the MoU on September 17. Raghuraman said the police will have to write to NHAI about the difficulties it faced on Friday with managing traffic. “Once the police write to us about the objections, we can file the same in HC, or find out another way to implement the MoU,” Ashok Sharma, NHAI project director, said.
This is the second time the concessionaire’s attempts to streamline traffic on the expressway has failed. On May 22, MCEPL barricaded the Sirhaul toll plaza, causing a five-hour gridlock.