Blocked highway sections at Singhu, Ghaziabad may reopen in Jan: NHAI
The portions of Delhi-Meerut Expressway (NH9 аnd NH24) at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border and National Highway 44 at Singhu border that were shut for over a year due to the farmer’s protest will be opened for public from next month (January 2022), senior officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) said on Sunday.
Officials said inspection on both the stretches of NH-24, NH-9 аnd NH-44 will be conducted after December 15 – the time by which the farmers’ unions have said both sites will be cleared. It would take at least two weeks from then to complete all the repair works, they added.
“We will start work once the farmers have fully retreated from sites. They (farmers) have said they will clear their temporary structures by this week. Immediately after the sites are cleared, our teams will conduct an inspection to assess the damage. After that repair and other maintenance works will be undertaken. People will definitely get to use those stretches of the highways from the New Year,” said one senior NHAI official asking not to be named.
After over an year of agitation against the three farm laws enacted by the Union government in September last year, thousands of farmers who were camping on the borders of Delhi have started wrapping up the makeshift structures they called home away from their villages after Parliament scrapped the laws on November 29. The three contentious laws deregulated farm trade.
A second senior NHAI official, who also asked to remain anonymous and handles both the highways, said a lot will also depend on the ongoing ban on construction activities in view of the hazardous levels of air pollution in Delhi. In case the permissions are not granted, opening of the stretches could be delayed further, he added.
“We would open it quickly once the inspection is done. It may take about two weeks, subject to the permission of work being granted to us as currently there’s a construction ban in the city as part of anti-pollution measures,” the second official said.
In their preliminary assessment, teams of NHAI found that the structural safety of the elevated portion of NH-24 may have been affected as minor cracks were identified at some portions. “Usually, we have dedicated teams for regular highway maintenance. But, no such routine activity has happened on highways along Ghazipur аnd Singhu for more than a year now because of the farmers’ protest. Our latest preliminary report suggests repair works will be needed,” the official said.
Dependra Pathak, special commissioner of police (law and order, north zone), said the Delhi Traffic Police has started removing barricades and blockades from all the points that were used for the protests. “We have started the process of removing the barricades and blockades that were placed on the Delhi side. Agencies such as NHAI have also been informed about it. Opening of the borders for traffic will be done as early as possible,” he said.
“At many places, roads were dug and filled with concrete to install iron spikes. The farmers built concrete structures on the roads, and at several places holes were dug in the roads to erect iron pipes to set up tents. All these issues need to be addressed by the agencies concerned,” said a senior police officer who asked not to be named.
The Ghaziabad-Delhi carriageway of the Meerut Expressway has been shut since December 3 last year when farmers erected the dais at the site, hampering the movement of thousands of vehicles. The protest also resulted in the closure of the Ghaziabad-Delhi carriageway of the Hindon elevated road which ends at UP-Gate. As a result, people are having to spend an additional 40-50 minutes on the road to reach their destinations.
“Either we take a 3-km detour from Anand Vihar while moving from UP to Delhi, or go through a narrow road passing through Ghazipur poultry market and Khoda Colony. A checkpoint at Khoda adds 30 minutes to one hour during peak traffic hours,” said Ankita Kumar, who has to commute for work to Central Delhi.
Up north, with the city’s main exit towards Punjab blocked at the Singhu border for over a year, commuters were taking a detour through the colony roads on either side of the main highway. These included narrow single-lane roads that took commuters around the Guru Tegh Bahadur memorial, while similar routes on the other side of the road through Narela were opening up directly in Sonipat. These detours were largely causing a delay of around 45-60 minutes, depending on the traffic volume, several commuters said.
The first NHAI official cited above said repair works at the NH-9 and NH-24 (Ghazipur protest site) is likely to take longer than NH-44 (Singhu border).
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