Pandal-hoppers headed to Sreebhumi puja this year can now take a subway instead of walking across VIP Road. The new Lake Town subway was inaugurated by minister and local MLA Sujit Bose on Mahalaya.
Salt Lake and Lake Town have long been connected by a footbridge but it is rickety and given the immense crowd that throngs the Sreebhumi pandal during the Pujas, the bridge has to be closed to public at nights right from Tritiya. Pandal-hoppers would then have no option but to wait for the traffic signal to turn red so police would release the rope holding pedestrians back and they could cross over. The crowd has always been blamed for traffic snarls at the crossing.
But the subway, that has long been in the making, has finally met its Mahalaya deadline. “Pedestrian traffic on VIP road, especially during Durga Puja, scales new heights every year. We have been trying to find a solution to this problem for long. Just like Baguiati and Bangur Avenue, Lake Town now has a subway of its own for pedestrians,” said Sujit Bose, who is also the head of Sreebhumi puja, which is bound to pull crowd with its towering Burj Khalifa pandal this year.
The subway is 68m long, 6.5m wide and 2.7m high. It has four gates, two on either sides of VIP Road at the Lake Town crossing. There are escalators but only for going up.
The entrance of the subway from the Lake Town end has been given a lawn with benches and youths thronged it on the opening day. They took selfies, strummed guitars and sang Puja songs. Ice-cream and phuchka sellers popped up too.
“The signal at Lake Town has the longest time lag to go from red to green. By the time the lights go green, there are already lots of cars jamming the crossing. It takes 20-25 minutes just to cross Lake Town. Hopefully, the subway will reduce the commotion now,” said Snehamoy Ray, a resident of Lake Town.
The officer in charge of Lake Town police station Nandadulal Ghosh was present at the opening. “The footbridge was not enough. We needed subways. The population in this area is huge and underground passes work best in such situations. The public too needs to keep the place clean. The administration will provide sweepers but people can’t spit or throw garbage around,” he said.
Most footbridges along VIP Road, he said, would be removed in phases. “These bridges are made of wood and iron slabs screwed together and are architecturally not very strong. Once subways are made at important crossings on VIP Road, the footbridges are supposed to be dismantled,” Ghosh said. However, the concrete footbridge connecting VIP Road to Salt Lake over Kestopur Canal will remain.