Bridge snarl reaches toll plaza

Today's pain is tomorrow's gain. Motorists at the Vidyasagar Setu toll plaza would hope that "tomorrow" arrives soon.

By Tamaghna Banerjee
  • Published 19.01.16
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The view from atop the Vidyasagar Setu toll plaza on Monday. (Anup Bhattacharya)

Today's pain is tomorrow's gain. Motorists at the Vidyasagar Setu toll plaza would hope that "tomorrow" arrives soon.

Day 2 of the Santragachhi bridge repair, the first working day of the week, saw traffic snarls stretching from the bridge to the toll plaza and beyond - that is almost 2.5km - in the morning.

The ripple effect was felt throughout the day and in the evening both Kona Expressway and Andul Road were choked with traffic.

So, motorists leaving the city were stuck for hours irrespective of the route they chose. "I had to take a train from Santragachhi. Since I was stuck for over 30 minutes, I walked a bit and got on to a cycle rickshaw," said Sandeep Jaiswal, a resident of Taltala. "The rickshaw-puller charged me Rs 200 but helped me reach the station just on time." Jaiswal took a train to Surat.

Goods vehicles from Calcutta were diverted through Andul Road while private vehicles and buses were allowed on the Kona Expressway and on one of the flanks of the bridge. "This was the best arrangement we could have made. We just hope the repair work finishes on time," a traffic officer of the Howrah commissionerate said.

The bridge has been divided and police have shut the Calcutta-bound flank of the 10.7m-wide bridge to repair the expansion joints. Of the 42 joints, 22 need to be repaired/replaced. Once work on this flank is over, the other flank would be shut. The PWD's national highway division has set January 31 as the deadline to complete the repairs.

"Our men are working overnight to meet the deadline. But it's a challenge... our workers cannot work freely because of heavy vehicular movement on one flank," an engineer said.

Trucks and trailers headed towards Calcutta are being diverted either through Benaras Road from Salap in Howrah or through Nivedita Setu in Bally to connect Belghoria Expressway. When the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic from 11pm to 5am, motorists have to use the Howrah-Amta Road or the Drainage Canal Road - both of which are narrower than the Santragachhi bridge.

The Howrah-Amta Road is about 8-10m wide and congested in the rural areas of Howrah.

Drainage Canal Road in Salap can be accessed from Belepole More while travelling from Calcutta and is a wide two-lane road with a divider. But that is a small stretch, comprising about 20 per cent of the entire route. Motorists have to turn left from Shanpur More to take Howrah-Amta Road via Dasnagar.

"This morning, I took the Howrah-Amta Road from Howrah court via GT Road to avoid the jam at Santragachhi," Samir Basu Roychowdhury, a lawyer at Howrah Court, said. He was headed for another court in Uluberia. "But there were several others like me who had taken the same route and I was stuck near the IIEST for an hour. It took me around two hours to reach Alampur."

According to the original plan, cars, buses and two-wheelers from either direction were supposed to ply on the bridge alternately at five-minute intervals. But on Monday, traffic towards Calcutta was allowed on the bridge for 12-15 minutes and traffic from Calcutta for 10-12 minutes.

Several motorists Metro spoke to said the bridge, a vital link between Calcutta and Howrah, needed to be widened.

Kona Expressway has seen an exponential rise in the volume of traffic over a couple of years. Over 100,000 vehicles take the expressway to reach Calcutta via Vidyasagar Setu. The expressway has four lanes but the bridge has two. As a result, speeding vehicles try to cram into the bridge, leading to accidents.