Traffic comes to a standstill on the cratered Jessore Road, along the periphery of the airport near BT College More, on Friday afternoon. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Patchwork repairs began on Friday on a rattling, snarl-cursed stretch of road that routinely grounds fliers, but with little guarantee that the next spell of rain won’t bring the craters back.
Hundreds of vehicles were intermittently stuck on the badly damaged Jessore Road — a part of NH 34 — for the second successive day and people headed for the airport to catch flights felt the impact on the connecting VIP Road.
But unlike on Thursday, when close to 40 people had missed evening flights because of snarls on either side of the airport, police managed the bumper-to-bumper traffic better.
Bidhannagar City Police blamed the cratered Jessore Road for vehicles moving slowly on that stretch, triggering a traffic pile-up on VIP Road.
“We had informed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) about the problem on Thursday itself. They did not get back to us immediately but patchwork thankfully began today morning between the Belghoria Expressway and BT College crossings, which are in the worst condition,” deputy commissioner (traffic) Pranab Kumar told Metro.
Much of Friday’s traffic chaos was caused by workers filling the potholes with bitumen-mixed stone chips while a truck and a road roller blocked more than half the road.
Motorists said the distance of 8km between BT College and Baguiati took close to an hour to travel. Most fliers set out for the airport hours in advance, forewarned by the news of people missing flights on Thursday.
“I read in your newspaper about the impact of Thursday’s snarls. So I did not take a chance and left my Girish Park home to catch my 3.30pm flight to Delhi around noon,” said Bodhisatwa Banerjee, a doctor.
Airport officials said no airline reported a “no show” on Friday.
The police, who were forced to dump two truckloads of roadfill material on the craters on Thursday, said the highway authorities should have started repairs much earlier.
“Vehicles could move only after we filled some of the craters yesterday evening. Today, repairs during the evening rush hour again hampered traffic. The highway authorities should have started work around midnight, when the density of traffic is less,” an officer said.
Metro took a ride down Jessore Road on Friday afternoon to find repairs in progress near the BT College crossing. Around 4.30pm, more than half of the craters along the remaining stretch towards the airport remained to be filled.
The 2km stretch between BT College and the 2.5 Airport Gate is dotted with potholes that are impossible to avoid.
The road is the riskiest at the airport end of the Belghoria Expressway with two large craters, each at least seven feet in diameter and two feet deep.
“Three motorcycle riders were injured after falling into these craters today,” said a shop owner.
After dusk, the lack of adequate lighting along some parts of the road add to the dangers of driving.
“In daylight, you can spot the potholes and craters but what about driving at night? The authorities should immediately repair the entire road,” demanded Tanumoy Halder, a resident of Madhyamgram.
But who is to blame for a national highway turning into a stretch that would put a village road to shame?
The NHAI is apparently dependent on the state public works department for repairs of the kind that began on Friday. “We have started patchwork. Once the potholes are filled, we will put a fresh coat of bitumen along the entire damaged stretch,” said a contractor engaged for the repairs.