When Pamela, an airhostess with a private airline, left her hotel in the city centre last week a good hour and a half before her reporting time for a morning flight, she hadn’t accounted for the vagaries of VIP Road. She reached Keshtopur with a comfortable 40 minutes in hand, around 8.50 am, but still ended up nearly missing her flight.
“I always fear that some day, I will be stranded at Baguiati or Keshtopur while my flight takes off. I have made it a point to leave the city centre way ahead of flight-time, but with VIP Road, you never know,” she grumbles.
Like Pamela, hundreds of airline crew and thousands of passengers taking flights out of Calcutta have to crawl down the corridor of uncertainty, between Keshtopur and Teghoria, every day. And to think that this is meant to be the ‘green corridor’.
To make the eight-km stretch of VIP Road — which handles about 40,000 vehicles on a weekday — snarl-free, the government had chalked out grand plans of converting it into a ‘green channel’ last August. The district traffic department had set up automatic electronic signals at the three major intersections of Keshtopur, Baguiati and Joramandir on the two-km stretch between Keshtopur and Teghoria.
According to the plan, the automatic traffic signals would be programmed to change colours simultaneously, creating a ‘green channel’ for vehicles whizzing through. The duration of the signal staying red or green would also be adjusted according to the volume of traffic during rush and lean hours.
The signals were all put in place and the scheme officially launched in the presence of chief secretary S.N. Roy on August 3. That’s when the flop show started and it shows no signs of ending. The lights remain red or green for similar periods during peak and lean traffic. “We are finding it difficult to adjust the signals because of the varying volume of traffic,” admits Ranjit Chatterjee, district traffic inspector.
So, the traffic signals continue to be operated manually by home guards hardly equipped to handle such vehicle pressure at the vital VIP Road intersections.
And the traffic snarls on the airport route continue. Ask Ronojoy Basu, a ground engineer of air traffic control, who lives in Dum Dum Park. “From here, it shouldn’t take me more than 15 minutes to reach the airport, but it often takes me over an hour. And things have just got worse,” he complains.