By Mohit Dubey
Lucknow, Is India still waking up to the autobahn culture? With three accidents and eight deaths in just a week on the spanking new six-lane Yamuna Expressway between Noida and Agra, that was the question doing the rounds.
On Aug 25, a 35-year-old man from Delhi died and a woman and two children from his family were injured in an accident. Four days after that, on Aug 29, five people were killed when their truck overturned following a tyre burst. And, on Friday, two others were killed when their tractor overturned, also after a tyre burst.
With the deaths coming just days after the Aug 9 inauguration of the 165-km expressway, which cuts down travel time from New Delhi to the city of the Taj to just two-and-a-half hours, concerns are being raised.
With an estimated 100,000 vehicles crossing the expressway every day and the “dependence of most motorists” on this route increasing manifold, say locals, the frequency of road accidents on this e-way has led to a degree of consternation even in the state government.
He added that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had expressed his concern at the accidents and had directed officials concerned to “talk it out with the Jaypee group”.
Jaypee Infra and the Uttar Pradesh government had described the Public-Partnership-Project (PPP) as one which would usher in a new era of development in the state.
Soon after inaugurating the expressway on Aug 9 Akhilesh Yadav had told IANS that he was worried about the speed limits on the expressway and feared for loss of life of motorists.
“While the upper limit is fixed at 100 kmph but am not too sure whether people would adhere to it once they are behind the wheel,” Akhilesh Yadav had said.
His uncle and senior Samajwadi party (SP) leader Ram Gopal Yadav had, however, requested officials to “explore possibilities” to up the speed limit to 120 or more.
“100 ki speed par to driver ko susti aa jayegi,” (the driver will feel lethargic if he is restricted to a speed of 100 kmph ) he had said.
With tyre bursts behind two of the three accidents, developers are now getting speed and maintenance advisories published in forms of printed material to be handed over to motorists before they enter the expressway.
Several traffic warnings – only stop on left shoulders, do not walk on the road, maintaining of speed limits, safe and alcohol free driving – already dot the stretch, a Jaypee Infra official said.
“We already have three lanes clearly marked based on the speeds of driving vehicles, beyond the safety steps we have taken, drivers have to be responsible,” the official said.
More mobile speed radars, cameras and sensors will soon be installed, an official said.
Sameer Gaur, joint managing director of the Jaypee group, points out that when a car enters through the zero point, the driver is explained the traffic rules and the precautions to be taken; for people breaching the rules, the control room passes on the information to the next toll plaza and the police is immediately informed.