Thousands of people risk their lives every day on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway while driving towards the residential and commercial buildings situated near India’s biggest toll plaza at Sirhaul.
People staying in this densely populated pocket at Sirhaul (Delhi-Gurgaon border) have to deal with traffic congestions even when they are just minutes away from their homes. Those visiting the nearby malls and hotels, too, have a tough time allegedly because of the faulty location and design of the toll.
The plaza is situated at a distance of merely 350 metres from the National Capital Region’s biggest shopping facility, Ambience Mall; the five-star Leela Kempinski hotel and the swish Lagoon Apartments. Ideally, the toll plaza should have been at least 500-1,000 metres away from these structures, say experts.
“The toll plaza is not only a blockade at our doorsteps, but the traffic pileups here also restrict our entry into our own homes. The stream of vehicular traffic coming from the toll plaza dangerously merges with our vehicles after we take a right turn at the U-turn. We risk our lives on a daily basis,” said Colonel (retired) SC Talwar, a resident of Lagoon Apartments.
On weekends about one lakh people visit Ambience Mall - a part of the 150-acre Ambience Island - and most of them have to face the harrowing traffic ordeal near the toll plaza. The expressway concessionaire, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL), shrugs off its responsibility by saying that it constructed the road as well as the toll plazas as per the specifications given to it by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
The NHAI officials, under fire for their apparent lack of foresightedness, reason that the detailed project report for the development of this stretch of National Highway-8 was drawn up in 1998 when there was hardly any development happening in these areas.
However, suggestions by engineering consultancy agency RITES in 2001 asking the NHAI to move the Sirhaul toll plaza at least 500 metres away from its present location was not taken into consideration as the NHAI officials failed to foresee the potential hurdle in people’s movement.
As a last-minute attempt at making things right, some changes in the project were suggested in 2005, but work on the Sirhaul toll plaza had already begun by then and land for the same had been acquired, leaving no scope for the changes to be implemented.
So, the concessionaire went ahead with the faulty plan and threw open the thoroughfare for the public in 2008, thereby also opening the floodgates of misery for thousands of commuters.
The Sirhaul toll plaza, when built, was one of the biggest in the world — second biggest in Asia, biggest in south Asia and India — but even size has failed to prevent this toll from getting caught in the urban tangle.
Traffic congestion at the plaza that handles nearly two lakh vehicles every day forced the Delhi High Court to intervene and consequently extra lanes were added to the plaza in 2012.
After the addition of the extra lanes — as part of the split plaza scheme — two extreme left lanes on each side of Sirhaul toll were made free and were made to diverge into seven booths from Gurgaon to Delhi and six on the other way. The current number of lanes is a whopping 47, the additional six lanes emanating from Udyog Vihar included. Still, traffic woes at the plaza refuse to cease.