In a fast car on a superfast expressway, a slow drive
Before it was thrown open to the public, it was said that the Gurgaon Expressway (National Highway No. 8) would be one of the fastest highways in the NCR. One of the many things that were said about it was that it would take you from Gurgaon to the heart of the Capital in less than 20 minutes. A report by Sanjeev K Ahuja.india Updated: Mar 26, 2010 01:40 IST
Before it was thrown open to the public, it was said that the Gurgaon Expressway (National Highway No. 8) would be one of the fastest highways in the NCR. One of the many things that were said about it was that it would take you from Gurgaon to the heart of the Capital in less than 20 minutes.
Everybody loved the idea and waited eagerly for that day to come.
It still hasn’t come. Why?
Because, nobody took into account the fact that since it would be a tolled road, the 32-lane toll plaza on the heavily used highway would, instead of speeding things up, bring the traffic to a tyres-squealing halt.
Two years after it was opened in January 2008, the commuters are still no better off. There are long, mismanaged queues, and a long waiting time during peak traffic hours.
Issues such as non-tag users in tag lanes, queue management and inadequate number of tag lanes continue to dog the plaza. More than 1.50 lakh motorists cross the toll plaza daily..
Speed it up
Those using this Expressway compare it to their experiences abroad, especially in Europe and the Middle East.
"Last week, I was on the access-controlled Sheikh Zaid Road in Dubai on a business trip. Our car, travelling at 100 kmph, crossed four toll plazas in a few minutes without halting. The toll was deducted automatically. Why can’t we have a similar system? I cross the Delhi-Gurgaon toll plaza twice a day. It takes me between 5-10 minutes during peak hours," says Roopak Vasishtha, Head-HR at the corporate office of Dr Lal PathLabs. Vasishtha drives a Smart Tag-fitted
Honda Civic between his Gurgaon office and residence in Vasant Vihar.
The most difficult hours at the toll plaza are between 6 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. when motorists get stuck here for anything between 10 to 20 minutes, he says.
The non-tag bargers
Most of the commuters using the Expressway complained that though the waiting time at the toll plaza had reduced, the authorities hadn’t done anything to stop non-tag users from barging into tag lanes.
"I don’t understand how non-tag users can enter tag lanes despite marshals being posted a 100 meters before the plaza to segregate tag users from non-tag users. Also, why do the toll collection agents accept cash on these lanes? Such intruders should be penalized or turned back," says Virender Dawar, owner of Open World electronics goods showrooms.
S. Parkash, former member National commission and retired engineer-in-chief, Delhi government, says though the plaza had improved in terms of convenience and waiting time, problems still persist.
A resident of DLF City, Parkash says the concessionaire, DSC Limited, should provide alternate routes to clear the traffic during peak hours. He says "There was a plan to construct a ramp toll plaza or an alternate road for traffic coming from Udyog Vihar. The proposed plan seems to have been trashed."
The DSC problem
DSC Limited officials claim the waiting time at the toll plaza has reduced to 1.5 to 2 minutes during peak hours in tag lanes. However, they say the concessionaire lacks regulatory powers to stop and discourage non-tag users from entering the tag lanes, as it was the police’s job.
"We have requested the police of Haryana and Delhi to depute their men to penalise the offenders. We can’t challan the non-tag users for using tag lanes and disrupting traffic. Also, we
have improved significantly in terms of waiting time which is almost non-existent as we now have nearly 90,000 tag users," says N.D. Mehra, executive director, DSC.
"We also have created enclosures about 100 meters before the tag lanes and have set up a single entry system manned by a number of marshals. These marshals check and allow only those vehicles that have the Smart Tag. Still, some non-tag users manage to sneak into the tag lane and cause jams. We have also not got a green signal from the NHAI and Supreme Court to add more lanes on the Delhi border toll plaza and Kherki Daula toll plaza, respectively," Mehra said.
The police problem
Gurgaon Police Commissioner S.S. Deswal said his department had deputed about 50 traffic personnel on the Gurgaon Expressway and couldn’t afford to spare more as his department, too, was facing a manpower crunch. He said, "As against a sanctioned manpower strength of 4,850 personnel, we have 3,100 personnel. Last year only, 650 men were transferred from Gurgaon and we haven’t got any manpower to replace them."
The NHAI problem
Even NHAI has expressed helplessness in checking non-tag users from entering tag lanes. R.K. Singh, chief project director, Gurgaon Expressway, says NHAI has no powers to penalise the offenders.
He says, "The NHAI Act and Toll Rules do not have any provision for any penalty against motorists changing lanes. Nor can we penalise and challan the slow moving traffic for plying on fast expressway."