As the date of inauguration of the long distance bus terminal on Kona Expressway draws near, Howrah City Police fear major traffic congestion and greater risk of accidents on the critical stretch.
The state transport department set about shifting the ter minus that had for long facilitated a hassle-free commute between Esplanade and Babughat following a directive from the Kolkata high court seven years’ back.
The shift, sources said, was necessitated in view of concerns over rising threat to Victoria Memorial and the city’s green spaces from noxious fumes and pollutants spouted by buses plying in the area. Even green activists and experts had voiced fears of Victoria’s pristine white marble losing its lustre on account rampant pollution.
On December 8, Howrah Police commissioner Ajey Ranade shot off a letter to the transport department, which is overseeing the setting up of the new terminal, warning of huge traffic disruptions and mishaps if the terminus is shifted without addressing the pressing infrastructure and logistical issues.
At any given time of day, as many as 72 inter-state and another 560 buses and minibuses anchor and ply from Babughat. Another 600 buses operate in the Esplanade. Once the new terminus kicks into gear, around 80% of the buses playing at Esplanade and Babughat are likely to be shifted to the expressway.
According to senior traffic officials, what has ratcheted up fears of a logistical nightmare once the new terminus opens to commuters is the fact that the majority of these buses, that are also laden with heavy cargo, would soon move and operate out of the new facility along with 300 light commercial vehicles. These vehicles, fear officials, could be crammed for space, leading to operational hassles and logistical nightmare, once the new terminus opens. Driving up fears of chaos at the new terminus is the fact that all local buses and cabs are also to be moved to the facility.
“The new terminus is just a tiled space with no physical demarcation of bus bays, passenger alighting and boarding points, taxi stand and the local bus stand. This will create serious traffic regulation issues resulting in frequent accidents leading to loss of life and property,” reads the letter by the Howrah Police commissioner. HT has a copy of the letter.
As per the high court order, issued on September 28, 2007, the state is to begin services at the new terminus at the earliest.
State transport secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay couldn’t be reached for comments on the matter.
“The new terminus has come up on 11 acres of land off the Nibra highway, just a few kilometres away from Santragachhi railway station. Both before and after offloading passengers or goods, these local buses and light commercial vehicles, have to take a U-turn leading to near chaotic scenes on the expressway. Unlike Santragachhi railway station, there is no flyover or underpass out here to facilitate smooth flow of traffic,” a senior traffic official said.
However, long distance buses operating out of this terminus wouldn’t face too much hassles, as the city-bound buses would offload passengers at the small bus stand, right opposite the new terminus, and head for Babughat. But, these buses wouldn’t be allowed to board new passengers till they return to the terminus. Howrah Police recently commissioned a joint survey with the Institute of Road Traffic Education, Faridabad, to review progress of the new terminus.
“The traffic circulation plan of the transport department has serious flaws. The single-lane entry and exit is inadequate and impractical. There is also no provision for other vehicles to take a U-turn turn without causing a major disruption,” Rohit Baluja, president of the Institute of Road Traffic Education, Faridabad, said. The new terminus has already missed two deadlines to start operations.