| POTHOLE PERIL: Metro adds a pointer to the Rajarhat road, cratered and cracked well before the monsoon. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wants Calcutta to hit the fast lane to international-city status, but his showpiece expressway leading into it seems more suited for moonwalking.
The Rajarhat Expressway ' a precious plume in Bhattacharjee's urban development cap ' from the airport end to Salt Lake is carved up by craters big and bigger, reducing cars to a crawl on the zip-zap-zoom approach to Calcutta.
The 11-km, hallowed highway, inaugurated by the chief minister in May 2004, is a mess well before the monsoon.
When Metro drove down Bhattacharjee's dream development pathway after the downpour on Saturday afternoon, every vehicle was forced to slow down and then zig-zag its way through the potholed puddles.
En route to the airport, a giant pothole finds pride of place in front of the Hidco site office. The irony is obvious, for Hidco is the developing authority of what is officially know as the Main Arterial Road (MAR).
So what has it been marred by' 'The soil underneath is soft and cannot take the weight of vehicles passing down the road. As a result, the road is cracking up,' observed Supriyo Guha, secretary of the housing department of the housing directorate of Hidco.
And repairs have, at best, been sporadic and piecemeal. 'In the past year and a half, partial repair work has been carried out, depending on the kind of damage to the road. However, no major repair work has been carried out so far,' admits Guha.
If the Hidco pothole is one landmark in the lane leading to the airport, the opposite lane is all about patches of concrete amidst the craters.
And the housing department is finally waking up to the problem. A committee of technical experts has been formed to probe the pothole peril.
'As soon as the committee submits its proposals, the department will start repair work,' assured Guha.
That better be sooner rather than later, feel those affected most by the ravaged Rajarhat road.
'We get clients from foreign countries on a regular basis and sometimes, the first impression is the only impression. So, there can be no compromise on basic infrastructure facilities like roads. Now that the elections are over, the condition of roads leading to Sector V has to be improved,' said D.K. Chaudhuri, CEO, Skytech Solutions.
Earlier, the 11-km stretch could be covered in less than 10 minutes. Now, it takes more than double the time, negotiating the potholes and pushing on the pedal in a few short bursts.
'It's a shame that the first glimpse of Calcutta that visitors get is this. A bumpy ride into town is the last thing an investor would want. Road condition remains a basic infrastructure facility that any investor would be looking at. The Rajarhat road needs to be repaired and repaired fast,' observed an industrialist forced to take VIP Road back home.