Central Vista revamp to have space to park 16,000 cars
The new parliament complex and buildings that are being built as part of the Central Vista redevelopment project will have parking for at least 16,000 cars, and while that may mean a likely increase in traffic volume in the area, enough mitigation measures will be put in place to ensure there is no congestion or impact on traffic movement, the architectural consultant for the project said.
According to details provided by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which is executing the project, to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the environment ministry, parking space for 14,095 vehicles will be provided in the common central secretariat buildings, central conference centre, SPG building and the residences of the prime minister and the vice president. Of the 14,095 parking slots, 13,719 will be in the common central secretariat buildings and the conference centre.
In addition to this, designated parking space will be developed along Central Vista avenue for over 1000 cars and about 30 buses, according to the consultant (HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited). Currently, the area can accommodate up to 600 cars. As per the information provided by HCP, the new Parliament building and proposed MP chambers will have surface and basement parking for close to 900 vehicles.
The exact number of existing parking spaces in the area, which houses multiple government buildings isn’t known.
Once the project is complete, the employee population, which is currently around 57,000, in the area is expected to increase by 10-15%. In an email response to HT’s query, HCP said, “The increase in employee population is expected to be between 10-15%, as people essential for the functioning of the Government of India will be brought here as all ministries will be consolidated in the Central Secretariat.” But around 9000 people, currently operating from offices behind North Block and South Block will be moved to offices outside the Central Vista area.
The project, civil society members say, will add to existing traffic congestion. According to Delhi traffic police, the traffic volume (pre-pandemic) at C-hexagon at India Gate is around 5,500 passenger car units per hour during rush hours. The C-hexagon sees a high volume of traffic as it is one of the crucial roads providing north-south connectivity. The average traffic speed is 40-45kmph (before the pandemic).
Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research said: “The social and environmental footprint of the Central Vista redevelopment just got wider and more harmful. The traffic analysis of the redevelopment projects increased traffic which will result in congestion.”
Civil society members argued that the government should put the traffic impact assessment in the public domain. Anuj Srivastava, spokesperson of LokPATH (people for Appropriate Transformation of Habitat), a collective of urban development experts and civic society members said: “The details about the entire project including traffic impact assessment should be put in the public domain….If the number as they say is 14,000 parking spaces, what are the building bye laws that they are following and who has scrutinised and sanctioned these numbers. CPWD has split the project into different components so that these assessments escape public and statutory scrutiny.”
CPWD officials said that detailed studies have been done for traffic improvement and measures have been planned to ensure that the traffic on main roads is not affected.
A senior CPWD official said: “We have carried out detailed studies and submitted our proposal for traffic improvement to Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC), which is the apex body that approves all transportation and traffic-related projects in Delhi. However, we will be providing service roads near the entrance/exits of the buildings to make traffic flow smooth without affecting traffic on main roads. We are also providing Automated People Mover/light metro which will encourage people to use public transport and reduce vehicular traffic.”
Asking not to be identified, this person added: “Further, by constructing Common Central Secretariat building, we are not increasing the number of officials in the Central Vista area as a whole because the number of officials moving out of Central Vista hutments from A&B block, L&M block are more or less equal to the number of ministry people coming into the Central Vista. Moreover, more parking space inside buildings itself will reduce vehicles presently being parked on roads in absence of inadequate parking space inside buildings.”
HCP, in an email response, added that mitigation strategies have been worked out after a detailed traffic impact assessment, to ensure that there is no impact on traffic movement in and around the area. Delhi Traffic police officials also said that the new constructions will not have much impact on the movement of existing traffic.
“One of the main reasons for congestion at C-hexagon, especially in front of India Gate, was the haphazard movement of pedestrians. Now, subways are being constructed for pedestrian movement. The road infrastructure will also be augmented, so there is not going to be much impact on vehicular movement,” said a senior traffic police official who asked not to be named.
The consultant in its response also said that the metro usage is expected to increase by 2-5%. The proposed people mover, a dedicated transit system connecting all the 10 common central secretariat buildings, will be connected to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s network at the Central Secretariat metro station.
The people mover will be able to ferry 20,000 people during peak hours, keeping much of the movement between the buildings underground, and also making it easy for commuters to transit to their offices from metro stations.
The existing network of roads in the area will be widened to accommodate the increase in traffic, HCP said in its response. Dedicated subterranean routes for VIP movement, better pedestrian and non-motorised transport connectivity, shuttle services connecting all key buildings, efficient ingress and egress to Common Central Secretariat plots to ensure minimum impact on thorough traffic along the Rajpath are among the several proposed measures to minimise the impact in traffic movement, as per HCP.
Kohli said, “The government proposes to offset this by carrying out additional road expansion and improvements over the next 10 years (as per the traffic assessment). One can expect major roads connecting to Central Vista being dug up or cordoned off during this time. These access roads are going to be securitised to facilitate VIP movement at the cost of public access.”
Transport experts say the influence area for analysing traffic impact should be beyond the abutting roads. Amit Bhatt, director of transport, WRI India, said that the influence area for a project of this scale should include major closest arterial roads, which could mean a radius of one kilometre, including the C-hexagon that is used mainly by vehicular traffic moving from north to south of the city.
“To ensure that there is not much impact on traffic in the area due to the new constructions, the mitigation strategies should be planned for an influence area. The emphasis should be to encourage most government employees and visitors to use public transport (metro or bus). Another important measure which can help in addressing the issue of congestion, especially during peak hours, is staggering of office timings.”
Experts say that there is a need for a comprehensive traffic movement plan for the area. Sewa Ram, professor of transport planning at the School of Planning and Architecture, said, “There won’t be a problem in traffic due to the new buildings planned at Central Vista. There is a need to make a comprehensive circulation plan in such a way that the Central Vista-destined traffic is isolated completely from the rest of the traffic movement. This traffic should move externally so that there is no conflict with vista-bound traffic.”