The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heart choker in city and the bypass is nowhere in sight

Calcutta, Oct. 8: The mother of all traffic jams has arrived. And it is not likely to ease in a hurry.

From Amherst Street in the north to Theatre Road and beyond in the south, almost all major thoroughfares have been choked from last evening in one pincer move launched jointly by the city police, the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) and construction firm Senbo.

On Monday evening, flagging off the construction of the Park Street flyover, the city police abruptly put a stop to traffic, north to south, on the Esplanade-Park Street stretch of the arterial Chowringhee road. No plan was put in place on how to handle the heavy flow of traffic, especially during the morning and evening rush hours.

The result has been that traffic throughout the city has gone haywire in a ripple effect. “It is like a fast-flowing river that is suddenly dammed,” said a traffic manager. “The water in the tributaries doesn’t know where to flow and spills over on either side. Unfortunately, in this case, the vehicles have to remain where they are, leading to massive traffic jams.”

A year ago, when a contract was drawn up for the construction of the flyover, it was decided that a temporary road would be constructed along Chowringhee, grazing the maidan, between the Lindsay Street intersection and the Jeevan Deep building. These are the points where the flyover begins and ends. This would take care of the south to north traffic.

The north to south traffic could flow along a narrow stretch of Chowringhee that would be left free while construction went on.

But this did not happen. Instead, commuters travelling south on Monday evening suddenly found their path blocked. They were diverted to New Road, a narrow slip of a road that runs behind the Maidan Market.

Within minutes this road got choked, and so it stayed for the better part of today, as it was handling the entire load of traffic coming in from Chittaranjan Avenue and S.N. Banerjee Road. The only option before commuters: take Mayo Road after 2 pm or Dufferin Road before 2 pm.

“Even Mayo Road and Dufferin Road do not have the capacity to handle such a heavy load of traffic as cars coming in from Howrah also use these roads,” said DC, traffic, M.K. Singh. “As a result, with cars virtually coming to a halt in the heart of the city, the movement of vehicles in the rest of Calcutta is also adversely affected.”

The police blame Senbo, which is constructing the flyover. “It had been decided at the time of signing the contract that the temporary road would be constructed before work on the flyover began,” said city police chief Sujoy Chakraborty.

“But Senbo has brazenly flouted this clause and started construction work. Our hands are tied as the government gave the nod for this. This traffic nightmare is inevitable and will continue till the temporary road is built.”

Kajal Sengupta of Senbo said the temporary road would be built — optimistically within six months — but had got delayed by the lack of consensus on whether it would be made of concrete or bitumen.

“Finally, it has been decided that it will be a bitumen road,” he said.

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