Struggling for over a decade, people are still hopeful of getting rid of the railway crossing, which remain closed for six hours in a day, thus impeding the mobility of those living nearby. Residents have for long been demanding either a rail underbridge or overbridge as a solution to their traffic woes.
With 16 passenger trains and about 20-25 goods train running daily on the single track, the level crossing has become a constant source of traffic disruption. People resort to jaywalking and walk through the barricade, thus risking their lives.
The inhabitants have knocked the doors of almost all authorities, sharing their woes, but without a fruitful outcome. When Pawan Kumar Bansal became the railway minister, people thought he would put an end to their miseries. However, Bansal's tenure didn't last long and locals hopes were dashed.
Public works department's sub-divisional officer Nirbhai Singh said, "As there are many railway lines, the length of box type culvert will make the bridge bigger, which is not feasible here due to concentration of shops in the area. We need to keep three-metre margin on both sides of the bridge, which is also not possible on this road."
"An overbridge is also not feasible because entrance path of unloading area (called "paleti") is situated just adjoining to railway crossing. As per information available, railways earn more than Rs 12 crore per month from goods trains. So railways cannot afford to forego this revenue by shifting 'paleti' for bridge construction,"he said.
Residents of thickly-populated Aastha Colony complain that the normal life get affected as they now have to take a detour for their daily commute.
Dhanaula road leads to National Highway-64. This is arterial road for going to Patiala and Chandigarh. People ply on this road to reach various educational institutions, colonies and industrial units. ROB on College Road has eased congestion to some extent.
The situation becomes worrisome when an ambulance carrying a patient gets stuck at the crossing. Every time a train crosses, there are traffic jams on either side. The traffic takes time to streamline even once the gates are opened.
As per railways norms, a bridge can be constructed if traffic density at the level crossing exceeds one lakh Train Vehicle Units (TVU). The TVU of this crossing is 1,01,842 which makes it a fit case for ROB construction. TVU is a unit obtained by multiplying the number of trains to the number of road vehicles passing over the level crossing in 24 hours time.
"The level crossing has become an irksome burden on us. We are unable to reach our shops on time as the crossing remains shut during peak working hours. Unless an bridge comes up on the track, problem would get compounded in the coming days,"said Sanjay Garg, a shopkeeper.
"We have to go to banks and others offices frequently. Time consumed for crossing is usually more than the time spent in offices,"said Moti Ram Garg, chairman of District Brickkiln Owners' Association, whose office is situated just adjacent to the crossing.
Instead of straight point-to-point overbridge, the irate residents suggest an alternative plan to bring a solution to the perennial traffic problems. They say an overbridge for two-wheelers and light motor vehicles can be constructed from Aastha Colony side to municipal library site on the College Road.
"Even municipal council had passed a resolution proposing bridge on the site, but it could not materialise. The bridge is a 'must' for people's safety and fuel saving,"said Deepak Soni, vice-president of Barnala Colonisers and Builders Association.
"We are fed up of making requests for a ROB. The crossing remains closed for at least 6 hours a day. We shall be forced to resort to agitation and 'rail roko' if suitable action is not taken,"said Pawan Bansal.
Railways authorities, however, do not record for how long the crossing remains closed every day.
What rule says
As per Railways norms, a bridge can be constructed if traffic across the level crossing exceeds one lakh Train Vehicle Units (TVU). The TVU of this crossing is 1,01,842 which makes it a fit case for ROB construction.
Of the 24 hours, Dhanaula road railway crossing remains closed for at least 6 hours.
During peak hours, we have to wait for long time to cross. Once crossing gates are opened, vehicles get stuck in a traffic jam as everybody is in a hurry. So, I wait till the traffic gets cleared, Vikas Kansal, Aastha Colony resident.
Many a times, I am scared of driving through. We have to plan things according to the timings of the trains. A bridge will certainly provide respite to us, Parshotam Goyal, resident.
I have waited at this level-crossing as a youngster; now my son waits here after these many years. Nobody is interested in providing us respite, Pawan Bansal, Aastha Colony resident.
Frequent and prolonged closure of level-crossing gates due to heavy train movement annoy road-users. An overbridge to municipal library side may be the solution, SP Kaushal, social activist.