NHAI’s deadly S-shape curve near Pune: 117 accidents, 73 deaths and 50 letters, no action yet

The S-shaped stretch from Khambatki ghat on the Satara-Pune patch of National Highway number 4 has two curves and a steep slope, often making it difficult for drivers to negotiate the turns.

pune Updated: Apr 11, 2018 14:02 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,S-shaped curve,117 accidents
The S-curve, right after the tunnel on Khambatki ghat on Pune-Bengaluru highway, has been identified as an accident -prone spot by the highway police.

This latest mishap spot, one kilometre from the Khambatki ghat towards Pune, on a highway under the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), has once again underlined the flawed design of the road, which has seen 116 accidents involving 55 deaths from 2008 till 2017.

The stretch starting from Khambatki ghat on the Satara-Pune patch of National Highway number 4 has been identified as an accident-prone spot by the highway police.

The S-shaped stretch has two curves and a steep slope, often making it difficult for drivers to negotiate the turns. On Tuesday, 18 people, mostly workers from Karnataka’s Bijapur district, were killed and 14 injured, when the tempo truck they were travelling in overturned. The vehicle was carrying 32 workers, who were headed to Bhor.

A truck packed with labourers and heavy equipment travels from Bijapur district in Karnataka to Bhor in Maharashtra. Labourers include men, women and children. A total of 37 people are riding in truck. Labour contractor is in the front with the driver. One of the labourers is on a two-wheeler following the truck. The truck is headed to Bhor on contract duty.
Early on Tuesday morning, around 4:30 am, one km past the Khambatki tunnel towards Pune, the truck approaches a dreaded ‘S’ curve. The truck approaches the turn at an angle and the driver loses control.
The truck skids for three-four metres and smashes into the road barricade. After hitting the barricade, the truck then careens against the concrete wall beyond the barricade for four-five metres, finally toppling on the driver’s side and grinding to a halt.
The one labourer on bike following the truck catches up to the site of the mishap and sees the truck lying toppled over. With the help of passersby, he calls the ambulance and police.
Injured and deceased are then moved to both, Khandala and Shirval. At last count, 18 labourers, including at least two children, have been declared dead.

To remove the flaw and make structural changes to the road, the local police in Satara district have written over 50 letters to NHAI, urging them to take corrective steps. However, the highway authorities said the project, which involves structural changes to remove the curves and straighten the road ,is stuck due to land acquisition problems.

“The NHAI has approved 6.5 kilometre road project, which involves creating an additional tunnel and straightening the road. However, NHAI cannot start the work until we acquire 80 per cent of the land, which the local villagers are not willing to give,” said Suhas Chitnis, project manager, NHAI. The land NHAI wants to acquire is from three villages - Khandala, Vele and Vanyachi Vadi.

According to Chitnis, the NHAI has asked the district administration to expedite the land acquisition process so that work can be started at the earliest. “The Satara district collector has taken the lead in the land acquisition process and hopefully, we will be able to complete the acquisition within the next three months,” said Chitnis.

According to the local police, the absence of inclination on the steep slope involving curves often becomes dangerous for drivers. While the NHAI had recently put up a metal crash barrier, road accidents haven’t abated.

Last year, the NHAI officials, along with the highway police conducted joint inspection of the spot and identified possible corrective measures to prevent the accidents till NHAI completes its project.

“This S-curve is a defined black spot according to ministry of road transport guidelines. There was a combined visit made by local police, highway police, RTO and NHAI officials five months ago. They came up with immediate as well as long-term measures to curb accidents on this spot. Every organisation sent their own proposal to their seniors,” said Amol Tambe, superintendent of police, highway police.

First Published: Apr 11, 2018 14:02 IST