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Rapid roadway hits speed breaker

A separate bus corridor, lanes for private vehicles, tracks for bicycles and service roads — that’s how the Bypass will look once the bus rapid transit system (BRTS) project is complete.

But like most projects stuck midway, the 14.5km BRTS phase one has hit the wall.

A ride down the road reveals that its width has doubled on some stretches and boards announce the project in several places. Other than that, work has hardly progressed.

Weeds and grass have overrun several widened stretches that were filled with soil nearly six months ago — a clear signal that work has almost come to a standstill.

Sanctioned in August 2010, the deadline was March 2012 but the project has missed even the revised time limit of March 2014.

An internal review in February shows that 46.36 per cent of the work has been completed.

The JNNURM website says non-availability of police permission to simultaneously block several stretches and work on the New Garia-Airport Metro along the Bypass have delayed the project.

These apart, sources said, the ubiquitous paucity of funds has caught up with this project too. The Centre has not released its share despite the CMDA applying for it in early 2013.

“The Union government wants the state to inform what development schemes it has planned for areas near the BRTS,” said a state government source.

Since the Centre’s share of its second instalment is pending, funding is hurting the project.

Metro tries to deconstruct the Rs 252-crore BRTS dream on the Bypass.

What’s BRTS?

As the name suggests, it gives room for buses to move freely in dedicated lanes. Besides, there will be lanes for private vehicles, cycle tracks, service roads and pavements. Lane demarcation is crucial so that vehicles stick to passageways reserved for them.

“The four-lane EM Bypass will get at least two more lanes after the road is widened. The road can have eight lanes in some places, depending on the availability of land,” said an engineer of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), the agency implementing the project.

Officials said the BRTS was planned in 2006 as a pan-India project to promote public transport and faster and snarl-free travel.

“The idea is to provide comfortable and faster travel on a bus. People avoid public buses because these are uncomfortable and slow. The BRTS will have dedicated lanes for buses so that they can move at a decent speed,” said Sudip Datta, senior vice-president of ILFS Infrastructure, the agency that has tied up with the state government to form BUIDL which prepared the detailed project report.

The busway

Two 3.5m wide lanes along the median will be reserved for buses, meaning the busway as well as the bus stops shift to the middle of the road where the central verge separates traffic from opposite directions.

There will be 44 bus stops on the 14.5km stretch between Ultadanga and Dhalai bridge in Garia.

Engineers said pedestrians would have to use zebra crossings from the pavement on the left to reach the bus stops. No one can sneak into the bus corridor other than at designated stops built with automatic doors that will open once a bus arrives. Display boards inside a stop will announce arrival time of a bus. Emergency service vehicles — ambulances and fire engines — will be allowed in the bus lane.

Car carriageway

A 10.3m wide, three-lane carriageway on the left of the busway will be reserved for cars, trucks and two-wheelers. One of the lanes will be marked two-wheeler bay. “The Bypass has two lanes on each flank on most stretches. Buses and cars share the same space, leading to overlaps and traffic jams. The two lanes for cars in the BRTS will ensure faster travel,” an engineer said.

Bicycle bay

A first in Calcutta — bicycle down concrete tracks with barricades on both sides and on each flank of the road from Ultadanga to Dhalai bridge. No car or bus can enter these corridors and bully cyclists.

“Traffic posts will be different and cyclists will get preference at signals.

The signal for cycles will blink first allowing them to cross the road or enter bylanes off the Bypass. The green light for other vehicles will flash next.”

Service roads on either side of the BRTS and a green verge between the vehicle lanes and the pavement are other components.

Ahmedabad model

The country’s first BRTS was commissioned in Ahmedabad in 2009. It now covers 82km where 134 GPS-fitted buses ply and stop at 124 stops. “The biggest enemy of BRTS is a narrow road. It should be as wide as possible,” said Harshadray Solanki, general manager (operations) of Ahmedabad Janmarg Limited that built the BRTS in the Gujarat city.

Sources said the Delhi BRTS failed because they cut space for cars to build the bus corridor.

A central control room monitors the entire network. Officials at the control room can track a bus and warn the driver if he is speeding or driving too slowly.