At no point of the 27.5-kilometre-long Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway does traffic congestion get as maddening as near the toll plazas. With unauthorised cash-lane users entering tag lanes, thousands of immobile vehicles create a bottleneck during peak hours.
At the Sirhaul toll plaza alone — there are two others near IGI airport and Kherki Daula — lack of driving discipline and effective policing renders around 1.2 lakh smartcard tags redundant. The passage becomes virtually “free for all” at Sirhaul and Kherki Daula as motorists swerve into wrong lanes as the traffic police and concessionaire firm staff remain mute spectators in want of penalising powers.
Bharti Arora, the deputy commissioner of police (DCP), traffic, Gurgaon has been pushing for restoring order and synchronisation at the toll plazas for long. The top traffic cop expressed her department’s helplessness in checking the lane violators. “We do not have power under the Motor Vehicles Act to challan the offenders,” she said.
Arora, however, pointed out that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) could impose penalties on violators if it so wished. “There has been no action from the NHAI despite us pointing it to them repeatedly,” she said.
“Despite commuter education initiatives, signage and marshals deployed at every point, cash users get into tag lanes and this is one of the biggest reasons for congestion. Since we do not have the authority to challan such errant vehicles, we had written to the NHAI to give us the rights to do so. We also requested the traffic cops to step in,” said a spokesperson of the concessionaire firm, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL).
‘Penalties will check repeat offenders’
Manish Kapoor, chief financial officer, MNC IT firm says to Deevakar Anand
"I have been a regular commuter along the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway ever since this 27.5-kilometre-long part of National Highway-8 was thrown open for the public in January, 2008.
The expressway was supposed to be a dream project — a part of the Golden Quadrilateral project connecting four corners of the country. The commuters of Delhi, Gurgaon and the adjoining areas had pinned their hope on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway and expected it to solve most of their perpetual problems of road travel.
However, neither the coming up of the expressway nor using the smarter option to pay the toll has served my purpose of fast commutation from my home at Saket in Delhi to my office in Gurgaon.
While it used to take me 30-40 minutes to reach my office before the expressway was built, now it takes a harrowing 1 hour and 40 minutes.
I use a smart tag to pay the toll at the plaza. But, despite the presence of bold and clear signage directing motorists to tag and cash lanes, there is absolutely no adherence to the rule. Cash-paying motorists deviate and enter wrong lanes, leading to congestions and delays.
Finding no escape while stuck in the long-haul traffic clogs - extending up to 30-40 minutes at times at the Sirhaul toll plaza — I have devised a way of utilising the vital time by watching business news channels on my mobile.
There are no marshals or cops, and there seems no recourse to the problem at all. I have missed several vital business meetings because of being stuck in congestions at the toll plaza.
Moreover, among my family and friends, I have earned the “reputation” of being indifferent to social gatherings because the incessant traffic bottleneck near the toll plaza over the years has led to my failure in making it to personal commitments on time.
My friends now rule me out of get-togethers that take place on weekdays. They think I work at some standalone island which is beyond the expressway toll plaza and I am bound to get stuck there.
Imposing heavy penalties on those who break the tag lane rule is the way forward. Penalties will act as deterrence and check repeat offenders."
Commuters irked as toll system comes a cropper
The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway has missed the mark of being a showcase project by a long margin. Be it the multiple legal battles or the sorry state of the road, the five-year journey of the expressway has been a harrowing one for both the concessionaire and the commuters.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is fighting a pitched battle in the court against the concessionaire, Delhi Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL), over the termination of the latter’s contract and other issues. The issues bugging the commuters, however, remain unaddressed.
The expressway regulars see no reason why they should suffer through the nearly-hour-long waits near the toll plazas every day. “What do we pay the toll for?” asked Arpan Gandhi, a senior consultant haematologist and a resident of DLF City phase-2.
“Having travelled around the world and used tolls all over, I am yet to see a toll plaza managed as badly as the Sirhaul one. It starts with lack of following the right lanes. There is no penalty for cash users intentionally getting into the tag lanes. Also, there is no facility to check the balance of smartcard tags online,” said Gandhi.
“The toll plazas should be deemed illegal. The NHAI is solely responsible for the mess and looting public money,” said Suresh Kumar Gupta, a resident of Udyog Vihar.
The situation is equally bad at both the Sirhaul toll plaza and the Kherki Daula toll plaza. Commuters from Delhi and those bound for Manesar and beyond, especially the ones whose destinations are beyond the plaza, bear the brunt of traffic snarls daily due to lack of enforcement of lane-driving at the plazas.