Less than 15 days ago, PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the Eastern Peripheral Expressway or the KGP Expressway Project as it is also known as – built at budgets running into several thousand crore with much fanfare and hype, with the BJP IT cell going into overdrive with images of Modi riding an open vehicle, surrounded by his security guards.
Then 15 days later it rained. Not much rain, but a few hours of rain exposed the entire hype behind the projects. To know how the highway fared when exposed to a few hours of rains read the full report here. According to media reports, several craters developed next to the highway and huge cracks on the concrete slabs were seen at regular intervals throughout the highway. The concrete seemed “washed away” and spoke of low quality or inferior construction.
The Hindu reviewed the newly built highway. According to this report the much-hyped highway is a disaster. Another report by Business Standard (Read Here) also claims that the highway is a ready recipe for potential disaster. Read the report from The Hindu below:
The point we are trying to make here is. If the highway was not ready as per the reports, why did the PM inaugurate it with such media hype and fanfare. What was the hurry? Why not complete the entire project and then inaugurate it 6 months later? Was Modi trying to score brownie points and divert attention of the masses, away from the rising prices, rising price of petrol, LPG and CNG prices? Was it another jumla dished out by the camera-crazy PM?
According to The Hindu, the starting point of the expressway is located nearly 8 km from the Haryana-Delhi border on National Highway-1 but it is a struggle to locate it because there are no signages en route. The approach road is inconspicuous with only a small board in a corner highlighting the beginning of the EPE. There is another board which indicates that the road leads to Ghaziabad, without any mention of all the other destinations connected, such as Hapur, Meerut, Noida, Greater Noida, Faridabad and Palwal.
Lack of proper road signs was in fact the biggest sore point of the journey. There are seven exit points on the EPE, many of which are indicated only once and if you miss those you could end up driving for much longer than you planned to.
Still worse, the exit points are named after villages situated nearby such as Baghpat, Duhai, Dasna, Dadri, Atali-Chasna. If you are not familiar with Uttar Pradesh, you will not know that these are exits leading towards Meerut, Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Noida, Greater Noida and Faridabad.
An official of the National Highways Authority of India acknowledged the problem. “We are making improvements on the basis of the feedback. Though road signs have been put up, there are many loops and inter-changes, people get confused. We will be adding more signs and will also ensure several indicators before every exit point,” he said.
No traffic monitoring
While the EPE has been called the country’s first smart expressway and was expected to be installed with the latest technology such as CCTVs, variable message signs for displaying important information for road users and overspeed checking system, on the ground we did not spot any. There was only one surveillance vehicle, which was manned by personnel who didn’t seem to have any training in crisis management or providing first-aid. As a result, there were several instances of trucks and trailers coming from the opposite direction.
The NHAI official told The Hindu that there is a plan to install Intelligent Transportion System for pro-active monitoring and taking pre-emptive actions, but it could take at least 12 months.
The EPE is far from being a finished product and was perhaps inaugurated in a hurry. While the tolling will start only from June 15, construction work is still on all the toll gates, except at Baghpat where the PM inaugurated the expressway. As a result, at all entry and exit points there is only passage open for vehicles. For example, at the exit for Dadri, there is only a skeletal structure for the toll gate, which is unlikely to be ready by June 15.
At Duhai, the slip road for vehicles exiting from EPE and merging with the traffic on NH-58 is not ready, which is a serious safety hazard. The entrance to Duhai, too, is not ready, with only one of the two lanes constructed leading to traffic congestion. We also saw that work on painting of road markings was still on.
While the EPE promised all modern public amenities such as restaurants, washrooms, petrol pumps, repair shops, none of these exists on ground. So, if you are travelling on this highway, do remember to pack some food along.
No power or lighting
The EPE has been called the first green expressway and equipped with eight solar power plants with a capacity to generate 4 MW of electricity. However, officials say at least three solar panels have been found to be stolen. While, the NHAI has sought electricity supply from seven different zones along the expressway, many are yet to provide power. As a result, there is no streetlight during the night.
However, driving through the EPE is still a breeze as there are no traffic signals or congestion. One can complete a journey from Kundli to Noida in almost an hour, nearly half of what it would take otherwise.
For truck drivers, it also means that they don’t have to wait for 11 p.m. to enter Delhi and pay a hefty pollution cess.
According to the data collected by NHAI, the EPE is able to stop significant number of cars, trucks and multi-axle vehicles from entering Delhi and provide them an alternative route to reach Ghaziabad, Noida and Palwal. On June 3, a total of 13,100 vehicles entered EPE at Kundli and 7,400 vehicles exited at Palwal.
Officials say that the trend is on the rise and they expect this figure to double in the coming days.
Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Y.S. Malik said the exact number of vehicles being stopped from entering Delhi will be known once the Western Peripheral Expressway (Kundli-Manesar-Palwal) is open as many vehicles headed to Palwal and beyond will have the option to use both the expressways. “We expect to know the effective traffic count by December.”