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Route plan to avoid highway holes

Siliguri, Aug. 10: The north Bengal development department has decided to repair and broaden parts of a road running parallel to NH31D, given the highway’s pitiable condition, so that commuters between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri have an alternative route available.

“The NH31D, one of the key national highways in north Bengal, is in a pathetic state. Even the chief minister has reprimanded the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for it. Nothing much has been done so far by the NHAI and we have no clue when the four-laning of the road — as part of the East West Corridor project connecting Gujarat with Assam — will start,” said Khageswar Roy, the Trinamul MLA of Rajganj in Jalpaiguri.

The state government cannot do much about NH31D as it is in the NHAI’s ambit of maintenance. But it’s potholes and undulations have become a cause of daily hardship for people in two of north Bengal’s key towns who have to take the road every day.

“We cannot afford to sit idle and watch people facing inconveniences for the bad road and then criticise us,” Roy said.

The alternative road starts near Salugara off NH31 and skirts Siliguri.

The road runs through Ambari and Belacoba and merges with NH31D at Gosala More on Jalpaiguri’s outskirts.

“Considering the distance and slow movement of traffic, it would take at least 20 minutes less. One can reach Siliguri from Jalpaiguri and vice versa in about 40 minutes,” Gautam Deb, the north Bengal development minister, said today.

As of now, small vehicles, and sometimes buses, ply this route. It is narrow in some stretches and needs repair in some other parts.

“We need to widen the entire stretch and develop a full-fledged state highway to facilitate smooth movement of traffic,” Deb said.

The minister said Rs 15.5 crore would be spent to repair and widen the 11km eastern Bypass — from Salugara to Sahudangi railway crossing — which is a part of the alternative route.

On this stretch, lights would be installed on both sides.

“We intend to build an underpass at the Sahudangi level crossing. Vehicles often get stuck here because of trains. Next, the 12km stretch from Sahudangi to Ambari, would be widened, followed by repairs on another 5km stretch till Belacoba,” Deb said.

“The final portion, around 15km or so, from Belacoba to Gosala More on Jalpaiguri’s outskirts, would be developed by the state PWD,” the minister said.

The plan to build an alternative road, Trinamul insiders said, has been taken up by Deb’s department to meet one of the principal demands of his voters as well as those of Khageswar Roy.

“The Dabgram-Fulbari and Rajganj Assembly seats, represented by Deb and Roy, comprise the entire Rajganj block and thus the entire damaged stretch of NH31D,” a Trinamul source said.

“Local people encounter inconveniences, suffer injuries and their two-wheelers and cars get damaged every day because of the bad condition of NH31D.”

Roy, the Rajganj MLA, when asked why the Congress leaders have been silent on this, said the party wanted to create a hindrance to Trinamul during the panchayat polls.

“Congress leaders, who are aware that the road conditions would be a major issue in the panchayat polls, are sitting idle, instead of taking up the NH31D issue with the Union surface transport ministry and the NHAI,” he said.

“Their intention is to let us down during the rural elections.”

The decision to build the alternative road has also brought cheers to residents of both towns, particularly daily commuters.

“We are relieved to hear that a parallel road would be built and maintained by the state as we don’t know when the NH31D would be repaired or widened to a four-lane highway,” said Shyamal Saha, a bank employee and Jalpaiguri resident who commutes to Siliguri every day.

“Also, during the widening work on NH-31D, traffic congestion can be avoided as many vehicles can take the alternative route then.”