At least 40 passengers missed their flights out of Calcutta on Thursday evening after being stuck in traffic snarls on VIP Road for several hours.
Police blamed the traffic chaos on a cratered Jessore Road even as passengers were seen getting off cars and cabs and making a desperate dash for the airport, luggage in tow.
“Several passengers reported late and five flights of Jet Airways and one Air India flight were delayed because of late arrival of crew who were stuck in the traffic jam,” said an airport official.
Somak Ghosh was among those who failed to reach the airport on time, despite starting out from Rajarhat with time to spare. “I had a 7.40pm Indigo flight to Delhi but it took me over an hour to move from Haldiram’s to the airport. I even missed the Air India 8.15pm flight and so I will have to wait for the morning Jet Airways flight to Delhi,” said the regional supply chain manager of Samsung.
Sixteen passengers on the Calcutta-Delhi Jet Airways flight, nine on the Calcutta- Bangalore Jet Airways, and 10 on the Calcutta-Chennai Air India missed their evening flights.
“Flights leaving for Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai were delayed by 72 minutes, 25 minutes, 20 minutes, 16 minutes and 10 minutes respectively. In all the cases, the crew members reported late because of the traffic,” said a Jet Airways spokesperson.
According to officers of the Bidhannagar commissionerate, the 1.5km stretch between airport gate no. 2.5 and the BT College crossing is filled with craters and potholes, slowing down traffic and causing snarls stretching from Doltala on Jessore Road to Baguiati on VIP Road.
“The entire Jessore Road is in a mess. And the stretch between gate no. 2.5 and BT College has large craters, over 6ft in diameter and more than a foot deep at places. As a result, several cars broke down and slowed down traffic,” said Pranab Kumar, deputy commissioner of traffic, Bidhannagar City police.
Things came to a standstill when a stonechip-laden truck broke down in the middle of the road around 5.30pm.
The serpentine car queue forced several fliers to walk the last mile lugging their luggage in a last-ditch bid to make it on time.
There was chaos at the airport as delayed passengers rushed to check-in counters or to ticket counters to catch the next flight out.
Like Prateek Sharma, an engineer from Delhi. “My colleague and I were to return to Delhi this evening after an official tour but we were stuck in traffic. Now we have to pay the cancellation charge and then get tickets for the next flight to Delhi,” he rued.
But who was to blame for the cratered stretch? The National Highways Authority of India and the state public works department, the custodians of Jessore Road, could not be contacted, cops said.
With things getting worse as peak-time traffic grew, the police brought in two trucks of roadfill from a nearby construction site to mend the craters.
“We suspended traffic movement along both flanks of Jessore Road between 7pm and 7.30pm to fill some of the craters, after which the traffic situation improved a bit,” said a senior officer of the traffic department.