It was meant to provide a high-speed link between Delhi and Greater Noida. But the six-lane Noida-Greater Noida Expressway has become a death ride for motorists as cars speeding at over 100kmph negotiate pedestrians,cycles and tempos. There are no highway patrols to enforce rules. Aniruddha Ghosal and Dipankar Ghose report from the ground
It was meant to be an intrinsic part of the urban dream that Noida was building. A 24.53-km stretch between Noida,a city that has its origins in the 1970s,and,the more recent,planned extension of Greater Noida. If other satellite towns around the national capital such as Gurgaon constantly despaired on the state of the roads both inside and those leading to the city,the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway was Noidas answer to motorists demand for world-class roads as more and more people drive in high-end and sophisticated cars.
Built by the Jaypee group which has also constructed the Yamuna Expressway,and later handed over to the Noida Authority,the six-lane road was meant to provide a high-speed link between Delhi and Greater Noida,in turn boosting the regions market value. More than a decade after it was constructed in 2002,the road has stayed true to the promise of high-speed travel. But speed,combined with other logistical failings and lack of police enforcement,has turned the expressway into one of the most dangerous stretches in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The expressway,almost deceptively,is far removed from the chaotic traffic that exists in the areas it connects Delhi,Noida and Greater Noida. All six carriageways are well-carpeted,tempting drivers to speed. Lush greenery covers the median along the entire length,the road bending gently at places but never enough to bring the speedometer down considerably. There are no traffic signals and,in concept,there is nothing to prevent an uninterrupted drive. But often,there are visible reminders that a commute was interrupted. A truck upturned on the median,a car damaged beyond recognition. Lives halted midway.
The first of several safety-related issues facing the expressway is pedestrians crossing the road. With the average speed of vehicles exceeding 85kmph,people crossing the road pose a risk to both themselves and the cars that veer dangerously to avoid them. The reason we have to cross the road is there are no over-bridges. People are forced to cross the road to reach a bus stop on the other side,negotiating vehicles travelling at over 100kmph. We are exposed to danger every single day, said Amit Gupta,a student at Amity University.
A string of commercial and residential projects have come up on both sides of the expressway,fuelled by good connectivity and Noida-Greater Noidas growing population. This has resulted in an increasing number of pedestrians who want to cross the road. Some of these institutions like Amity University and HCL cater to either students or office-goers who run into thousands. A majority of them use public transport and,therefore,have to navigate the expressway. Lack of bus stops at appropriate points and foot over-bridges means accidents are waiting to happen, a traffic police officer said.
While a large number of establishments have already come up near Noida,large residential complexes such as the Jaypee Wish Town complex are on their way as well. Construction workers also cross the central verge,often carrying construction material that hampers their mobility. Once these complexes are ready,then residents will try to cross the road. It is imperative that arrangements are made. Either in the form of traffic signals or over-bridges at designated spots, the officer said.
If the blame for the dearth of civic infrastructure can be laid at the door of the Noida Authority,the district traffic police too has failed to check over-speeding on the stretch. While the speed limit is 100kmph for cars and 60kmph for heavy vehicles and two-wheelers,it is routinely violated. Additionally,vendors selling sugarcane and fruits squat on the periphery of the road with several vehicles stopping by to make purchases. On the days Indian Express visited the expressway,on a weekday and again on a weekend,not one patrol vehicle was visible.
Lack of policing
There is no deterrence as there are no police vehicles. If there is an accident,this delays investigation as well as reaching medical help to victims, said Manish Sharma,a resident of Greater Noida who uses the stretch everyday.
Exacerbating the danger posed by high speed is the presence of extremely slow-moving traffic: cycles and other modes of public transport such as tempos. Since no toll is charged on the road,it is the easiest route for people going from Noida to Greater Noida. There are various pick-up points such as Amity,HCL,the KPMG building and others,where people gather to board tempos, said Prahlad Kumar,who operates a tempo on the stretch.
Dangerous in the day,the expressway becomes a demon at night. A Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) report states that the most dangerous period is between 10 pm and midnight,a time when trucks and other heavy vehicles use the road.
Speed it may facilitate but the 24.53-km stretch finds itself caught between its conception of a high-speed expressway and lack of sufficient checks and balances to make the drive a safe one. The twain must meet,for lives are at stake.