With one of the highest usage of personal vehicles in the country, Chandigarh road infrastructure is creaking under the strain. In last five years, the commute has become one of the major issues ailing the City beautiful, which was once known for its open green spaces.
As the city goes to polls on May 19, will the new Member of Parliament of the city be able to solve the long pending issue of commute?This question prevails on every resident’s mind. The route, via which it would hardly take 10-12 minutes to reach the destinations, today takes nearly 35 minutes. The reason for this is the increasing number of vehicles in city.
The first solution to the growing population of vehicles was said to be – improving and strengthening public transport. However, that never happened as the plans remained only on papers.
No electric buses, HVAC buses only ahead of polls
In a bid to strengthen public transport while curbing air pollution, UT had decided to purchase 20 electric buses for the city. The estimated cost of the project was around Rs 32 crore as each bus was to cost around Rs 1.35 crore. The administration had written to the central government seeking financial support but was refused the same. In December last year, UT Administration again sent a fresh proposal
For last two years, the project of electric buses is hanging in the balance. However, the high cost and feasibility issues of the electric buses have remained areas of concern. It was stated that an ordinary bus can cover a distance between 230km to 250km in a single shift but this electric bus covered only 180 km a day on single charge, carrying 1,750 kg. This was observed when demonstrations and trials of the bus were held. The major reason for failure to launch electric buses was high costs. On the other hand, only ahead of polls, UT Administration purchased HVAC buses- semi deluxe buses. Five buses were flagged off, while other 35 will be reaching the city shortly. The buses are mostly long route buses. In 2017, 40 buses were flagged off by the MP, however, all were long route buses.
Ring road only on paper
A ring road was planned to provide an alternative route for the vehicles in transit. Talks with Punjab and Haryana governments are on but there has been no action on ground. UT officials said the process involves land acquisition in Punjab and Haryana and for that, discussions were ongoing.
As per a study of the daily (24 hour) traffic at outer cordon points, about 1,52,650 vehicles enter or leave Chandigarh on a typical working day. There is also a high volume of passenger and freight traffic across the city. Madhya Marg is the worst affected road since it provides the shortest and most direct connection between the towns of Mullanpur/Kharar/Anandpur Sahib and Baddi in Himachal on the west and the towns of Manimajra, Panchkula, Pinjore, Kalka, Chandimandir Cantonment in the east.
Metro, monorail not materialised yet
Member of Parliament Kirron Kher, from the very beginning, has opposed the project of the Metro. Kher had stated that she would not like the city to be dug up and instead preferred monorail. Though the work on metro in the first phase was scheduled to begin from 2013, but due to the delay, the cost of the project has escalated. The estimated cost of the project has jumped from Rs 10,900 crore to Rs 13,600 crore. It was stated that Greater Chandigarh Transport Corporation (GCTC) will be formed, following which the work will be started. The Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) had asked for 200 acre land for the project.
The total length of the Metro project , covering Chandigarh, SAS Nagar and Panchkula, was scheduled to be 37.57km. The major portion of two corridors was to fall in Chandigarh. Doubts over financial viability and the relatively low population of the city were raised. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) had stated that the Metro project will not be commercially viable till 2051 due to poor Peak-Hour Peak-Direction Traffic (PHPDT). It meant that the facility needs to be used by 40,000-70,000 passengers during peak hours and peak traffic to ensure financial viability of the project, which is expected to be achieved only in 2051. Pawan Bansal, the Congress candidate from Chandigarh seat for upcoming polls, says he will bring Metro for the people to solve the issue of daily commute.
Draft parking policies to promote non-motorised transport yet to be a reality
The UT Administration had made a draft parking policy to promote the use of non-motorised transport but it junked it after different stakeholders, including residents’ welfare associations and political representatives, strongly opposed it. The previous draft policy was made on Singapore’s pattern with UT proposing heavy road tax on purchase of vehicles over Rs 10 lakh. It had also proposed obtaining a mandatory parking certificate. However, there was such a hue and cry over it that the administration scrapped it. Now, administration is working on another parking policy.
What the data says
In August 2018, a report by Centre for Science and Research declared Chandigarh as the second worst among 14 cities in “per travel trip emissions” due to high usage of personal vehicles. Here, it was close to 80 per cent, followed by Lucknow (70 per cent), Ahmedabad (65 per cent) and Jaipur (60 per cent).
As per the surveys conducted by M/s Rites in 2008, the daily total inter-city passenger traffic with Chandigarh Urban Complex is 4.93 lakh trips (cars, 2 wheelers, auto rickshaws and buses), about 1.41 lakh of which comprise ‘through trips’, which constitutes 28.7 per cent of the total traffic. Experts say that the number of through-trips have enormously gone up in the last 10 years due to non-availability of quality public transport, record per capital personal vehicles ownership and absence of any outer regional connection via rail or road.
Vehicle registration in the city has seen a manifold increase. In 2018, in a period of one year, from January 1 to December 31, the city witnessed registration of 45,278 vehicles with the Registering and Licensing authority (RLA). It means, every day, Chandigarh saw addition of 124 vehicles in the last year.
As per figures with the RLA, of these, 28,132 were motorcycle and scooters, while 16,999 were cars. Motorised cycles that were registered were only 9. In 2001, the number of cars was 7643, which is more than double the figures now. Similarly, in 2001, two-wheelers and motorcycles were 14,982, and their number have only doubled now. From 2000 to 2017, 6,72,113 vehicles were added to the city, which has a population of 10.55 lakh, as per the 2011 census.