The state government on Saturday imposed a ban on entry and exit of vehicles with 20 wheels or more in the city. The ban will be effective from September 10.
Confirming it, Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar said that the heavy vehicles which are already in the city have been asked to leave within two days.
“The Majherhat bridge collapse incident is being investigated. I am assuring you that we will be able to normalise the traffic situation in a day or two. We are working round the clock so that people don’t face problem. There are a few bridges where we will not even allow normal goods vehicles. These will be allowed after the bridges are repaired and strengthened,” said police commissioner Rajeev Kumar.
Freight traffic movement over four bridges – Arabindo Setu, Belgachia bridge, Tollygunge bridge and Bijan Setu – have also been restricted.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had, on Thursday, said that the lifespan of 20 bridges in and around the city had expired and needed urgent repairs. She had also banished heavy goods vehicles from the city to protect the bridges and flyovers. “I do not want 20-wheel trucks to ply on city roads. Port and others have to make alternative arrangements,” she had said after the Majherhat bridge collapse.
The truck operators and transporters are, however, not happy with the decision. According to them, at least 3,500-4,000 loaded trucks leave the city and almost equal number or more enter the city with goods. A ban on 20-wheel trucks will badly affect the business. Now, matadors and vans will have to be used for the purpose and the additional cost will be borne by the wholesaler and retail buyers, they said.
“We are not worried about 20 or 22-wheel trailers because they are mainly used in dock areas. But putting restrictions on goods vehicle will affect business. We will request the government to find an alternative. Every bridge in Bengal is dangerous and need maintenance. Does that mean trucks cannot move in the city? This restriction will not only hamper industry but will also have a negative impact on the economy of the state. It will be better if the government can control overloading of vehicles,” Sajal Ghosh of Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators’ Association said.
Operations within the Calcutta Dock System in Kidderpore will also be severely affected by the ban on heavy vehicles. Container movement depends on large trucks with 10 to 20 wheels.
“Today we held a meeting with the trade stakeholders to understand their demand in the wake of the bridge collapse. We have decided to offer a few relaxations. We are also trying to build an ecosystem that will help overcome the crisis and minimise the impact on trade. They wanted extra free time for keeping cargo in port as there are delays due to traffic congestion. The free period for exports has been extended from 7 days to 10 days,” said Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) chairman Vinit Kumar.
The officials also revealed that the trucks plying in port area are of 18-wheels or less hence this will not affect them in a big way.
On an average 1,700 vehicles were exchanged daily. After the bridge collapse, the number had come down to 900 due to traffic restriction. However on Saturday, it has again risen to 1,450. The situation is slowly improving with the co-operation of the police, KoPT officials said.