The Delhi-Gurgaon expressway’s toll plazas do not serve the public good. In fact, the expressway was set up to reduce the travel time, but it has increased it; the SOS phones, which should have been planted at every 1.5 km, do not function anymore; while waiting time at the toll plazas was claimed to be around five minutes, now there are inordinate delays up to two hours during peak hours.
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.
“In order to expand the capacity of the KM-24 toll plaza, we had written to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in 2011 to make land available so that lanes could be added on either side. However, since land was not available, we decided to expand its capacity within the existing right of way by setting up split plazas,” said a spokesperson of DGSCL, the concessionaire of the expressway.
Sources say as land is a dear commodity in Gurgaon, the state government was hesitant to part with land needed for the toll plaza expansion at the rate at which the NHAI would have acquired it.
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.
“The addition of extra lanes that diverge from just two of the lanes on the toll plaza is eyewash. The situation would be terrible if a car breaks down in one of the two lanes from which the extra lanes divert,” said KS Bedi, former assistant commissioner of police (traffic), who had once headed the road safety wing of Gurgaon police.
Meanwhile, DGSCL argues that the tumult at the toll plaza takes place mainly on account of unruly and undisciplined drivers as non-tag users or cash users veer indiscriminately into tag lanes which disrupts the free flow of traffic.