The area outside Bandra railway station is not different from any other station in the city — narrow roads, encroached footpaths, illegal hawkers and unregulated parking.
However, unruly and indisciplined autorickshaw drivers are what distinguish it from the rest.
This, coupled with narrow access roads to the station, especially on the eastern side, that are encroached upon by illegal shops, garbage and unregulated parking, leave just two lanes open for traffic coming from both the sides.
Transport experts said reining in errant autorickshaws and encroachment could solve the traffic problem to a large extent. One possible solution suggested was the segregation of traffic, especially autorickshaws.
“Authorities should build three to four platforms for autorickshaws. If possible, there should be restricted entry for private vehicles, including autorickshaws on the east side,” said Ashok Datar, transport expert.
Datar suggested a dedicated bus lane system connecting the station to important locations such as Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) to provide faster and reliable transport options. This would also dissuade commuters from opting for private transport, he said. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has undertaken a dedicated bus lane plan to facilitate faster travel for office-goers at BKC. However, this is operational only up to BKC junction. So buses will continue to witness traffic jams on the access roads to Bandra station.
Meanwhile, the traffic police said they had started taking strict action against unruly autorickshaw drivers.
Namdeo Chavan, deputy commissioner of police (traffic), said “We have started segregating autorickshaws going in different directions. Also, we are taking strict action against auto drivers who violate traffic rules.”
Bandra-based architect David Cardoz suggested extending Bandra station to the south, which will ensure direct connectivity to the Western Express highway (WEH).
“There is a big parcel of land available on the southern side of the station. The new station area can be then connected to WEH. In addition, it can be facilitated with proper connectivity through public transport and be converted into a non-hawker zone,” Cardoz said.
Experts also suggested improving the existing road infrastructure and even constructing new roads, if necessary.
“If a new road is constructed on the vacant railway land on the station’s eastern side, traffic here can disperse to Kalanagar junction smoothly. The road will facilitate traffic in one-way — in a circular direction: Kalanagar- family court-Bandra station- Kalanagar,” Datar said.
Experts, however, sought political will and coordination between various government agencies to solve the station’s traffic congestion problem.
Local MLA and city BJP chief Ashish Shelar said railways is planning to decongest the area outside the station.
“The first thing we have done is to remove hawkers from near the station. The railways have prepared ‘Bandra Square development’, which aims at decongesting Bandra station. The plan will be executed in three to six months,” Shelar said. Railway authorities said they were in talks with the state government to build an elevated link road between the station and the highway.
Expert solutions to decongest Bandra station area
1. Complete the road overbridge at Bandra (East)
The construction work on the elevated road connecting Bandra station and terminus commissioned in 2011 is stuck. It should be completed on a priority basis.
2. Need for better public transport
Experts demand proper connectivity between the station and all major locations through a public transport system to attract commuters to use it. They also demand a dedicated bus lane, at least during peak hours, which would ensure faster travel, and thus, would get commuters to use public transport buses over private cars. The MMRDA’s dedicated bus lane plan is restricted to Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC).
3. System needed to control indisciplined autorickshaws
Commuters exiting from the west side of Bandra station take autorickshaws. As such, experts suggest the construction of three to four platforms for autos to ensure proper segregation of traffic. Experts seek restricted entry to autos on the east side of the station, which is narrow and has encroachments. This can be done with supervision by the traffic police or entry charges.
4. Proper footpaths, skywalks needed for pedestrians
Experts suggest proper footpaths should be built for pedestrians. Escalators will encourage pedestrians to use the near-empty skywalks and foot overbridges. The skywalks can also be extended to certain locations or be given additional landings. Also, a cycle track and related facilities can be made available to promote pollution-free non-motorised transport.
5. Curb illegal parking and encroachments
Experts say authorities should remove encroachments that have eaten into the road space to free up space for vehicular traffic. In addition, the traffic police should either ban parking or regulate it depending on the traffic flow. The traffic police should take stringent action against illegal or double parking.
6. Use space available to build better roads
Experts suggest the construction of a road on a vacant railway land on the station’s eastern side, which will take traffic to Kalanagar junction. Traffic movement can then be facilitated in a circular direction: Kalanagar-family court-Bandra station-Kalanagar. In the west, authorities can widen the road that passes through Maharashtra Nagar slums. It will take traffic directly to SV Road near Jama Masjid.
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