The last few kilometres of roads in northeast Kolkata leading to the airport are a traffic mess.
A meeting of the airport advisory committee on Tuesday discussed how traffic congestion was leading to poor access to the Kolkata airport. The airport is also losing its appeal to international airlines because of the congestion.
The thoroughfares leading to the airport are VIP Road, Jessore Road and Major Arterial Road.
There have been several instances of passengers and even airline crew members failing to reach the airport in time for their flight. Airlines say some of the flights are delayed because of the late arrival.
The Telegraph went around the area on Wednesday and here is what it saw.
Hawkers selling poultry, fish, vegetables, clothes and other items have set up stalls right on the carriageway of VIP Road, resulting in snarls on a crucial artery leading to the airport.
The worst-hit portions include a 200m stretch on both flanks in front of the Baguiati bus stop, a 100m stretch in Kestopur and a 150m stretch in Kaikhali.
The hawkers set up stalls by laying plastic sheets on the road or park their vans and carts on the carriageway. People, too, park their vehicles at random and shop.
A plethora of autorickshaw and toto stands in these three places add to the congestion.
The stalls and parked vehicles create bottlenecks on VIP Road, an officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate said. “We conduct regular drives and ask hawkers to move away. The moment they see cops or a police vehicle, they pack up and leave, only to return after the cops are gone,” the officer said.
On Jessore Road, a combination of stacked construction materials lying by the roadside, and parked trucks and buses along the road near the Airport Dhaba and in Birati cause snarls during rush hours daily.
An officer of the Barrackpore commissionerate said they often clamped vehicles parked on Jessore Road.
The Major Arterial Road (MAR), a six-lane thoroughfare that cuts through New Town, used to be one of the fastest routes to the airport.
However, guardrails placed in a zig-zag fashion on the artery reduce the average speed of vehicles considerably.
The Bidhannagar commissionerate has placed the guardrails because multiple accidents involving speeding vehicles have occurred on the road. But residents as well as those who travel down the road to the airport said the guardrails were more of a hindrance than help.
“Keeping guardrails on a road that has several traffic signals and crossings guarded by cops does not make much sense. The guardrails unnecessarily slow down vehicles, defeating the concept of a fast corridor,” said Samir Hazra, a New Town resident.
On VIP Road, on the other hand, autorickshaws, rickshaws and bicycles move as they please, often putting the lives of commuters at risk and slowing down vehicles headed for the city.
The problem is more severe at the gate number 2.5 crossing on Jessore Road, where vehicles from Belghoria Expressway and from Barasat merge. The road at this point is not wide enough to accommodate such a high volume of traffic.
A senior officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate said they place the guardrails to prevent speeding. “We will find out whether they are unnecessarily slowing down traffic,” the officer said. He also promised action against rule-flout autos and totos.
A number of construction projects have reduced the carriageway of VIP Road as well as the Chinar Park crossing, leading to traffic congestion. One such project is the airport-New Garia Metro line on VIP Road and MAR. Also, work is on for relaying parts of service lanes of Jessore Road.
An official of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), the implementing agency of the New Garia-airport Metro link, said it would take about 18 months to complete work.