A ride through farms on 136km-long KMP expressway, inaugurated by PM Modi
After much delay, the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway, also known as Western Peripheral Expressway, finally became fully operational on Monday when Prime Minister Narenda Modi inaugurated 84-km stretch of the e-way. Proposed in 2003 by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), the KMP Expressway is likely to give the National Capital Region (NCR) some much-needed relief from traffic congestion and subsequent air pollution.
With the inauguration on Monday, the total length of the KMP Expressway will be 136 kilometres as 52-km Manesar to Palwal section of the expressway is already operational for the last two years.
A commute on the 84-km-long road, which has six lanes, makes an exhilarating experience in the middle of the day as it passes through some of the greenest farmlands between Manesar and Kundli. It goes through Jhajjar, Badli, Bahadurgarh, Sonipat and other parts of the NCR, and connects four major national highways -- NH-1, NH- 2, NH-8 and NH -10.
An HT team visited the expressway a week before it was scheduled to be opened on November 1, and it was obvious that the road needed some more finishing touches before becoming operational. Perhaps the reason why the inauguration was extended by more than two weeks.
With the cloverleaf on the national highway 48, which connects the Manesar-Palwal section with Manesar-Kundli section, one has to take a U-turn to get on the approaching road from where starts the 84-km-long journey. It is expected that almost 20% to 25% of non-destined commercial traffic entering Gurugram and Delhi would take this diversion, thus cutting down congestion and pollution levels. Strong votaries of the expressway cite the toll collection figures of Mnaesar-Palwal section as an indication of the future. “Initially, the toll collection on this stretch for first few months was around Rs 20 lakh per day but now the average is around Rs 60 lakh and most of it is from commercial and heavy traffic,” says Pradeep Goyal, vice-president, Essel Infraprojects Ltd, which was awarded contract in 2016.
At the beginning is the Manesar toll plaza, which is first of the seven tolls on the expressway. A noticeable thing is that all the plazas that allow traffic midway are designed as a cloverleaf to ensure smooth entry on this high-speed access control road, which has crash barriers on both sides to prevent any vehicle or animal from entering the road. “We have also ensured that none of the roads connecting villages across the highway, revenue roads or water channels are blocked. The natural movement of people and elements has been taken care of,” says Vilas Misal, project director, KMP Expressway.
A few kilometers ahead, workers on both sides of the road could be seen clearing the middle section, fixing the high mast lights on the central verge and other basic amenities. Around 50% of the lighting work was pending on October 25, but the contractor now asserts that 90% of that work is completed. “The toll plazas are ready and concessionaire can start operation whenever it wants. Lighting work will be soon completed,” said Goyal.
As we move ahead and reach Daboda, there is a large camp site of the KMP Expressway where a number of vehicles are parked. The site is almost 20 feet below the road and one has to walk on a steep muddy slope to reach the office, where activity is feverish in expectation of PM Modi’s visit. “We have completed all the work which was in the contract and it is ready for inauguration. The work which is leftover was later added to the scope, including drip irrigation, solar lighting and additional measures,” says project director Misal.
Moving onwards to Kundli, there is a feeling of isolation as a large stretch of the expressway is desolate and there is no resting bay ready either for commercial or local traffic. Commuters on this road should be fully loaded on petrol, food, and water as in the initial days barring the presence of police personnel there is not much public amenities that they can access.
As per the project, the plan is to set up a resting bay at Kilometre-47, but the authorities are still working out the acquisition of land for it, said an official. “There would be a resting bay and other amenities also, along with a helpline number soon. We are working on it,” says Goyal.
Rushing towards Kundli, a large group of people are standing near Nizam Khurd and offering ‘prasad’ to the travellers majority of whom are truckers, dumper drivers and few cars that take this route to travel between Kundli and Manesar. Dada Bhaiya temple is nearby. Locals have their own view on the KMP expressway, which, they say, has divided the village land in two parts, not added much to their life as it is inaccessible to them until they travel far. “There is no provision of service road on the highway despite the fact that land is available. The earth from the sides was scooped to build this elevated road, but we feel disconnected,” says Ramesh Kumar, a village elder.
The contractor, however, disagrees and says that they have tried to keep the adjacent area within the loop of the road. Prof Sewa Ram, an expert from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, says that not only the rural population but the actual road users in Delhi and NCR will be left out unless radial connectivity is improved. “This expressway and others need to have connection with internal expressways like the Dwarka expressway or the ring roads in Delhi so that more people can use it and traffic from the centre comes towards the outer. It will reduce congestion and pollution as well,” he says.
Finally, when the car reaches the toll plaza at Kundli, there is a sense of elation as the journey comes to end. The last toll plaza on this highway has been built keeping in mind both aesthetics and culture. A large hall, which will showcase digitally the construction of this expressway and culture of Haryana, will lure the commuters as they take rest from a long journey or are ready to embark upon one.