H. Kishie Singh
In most countries, the roads are built for a specific purpose. Intra-city roads to inter-city roads to super highways, all have different specifications. Their load-bearing capacity is the main criteria.
The National Highway Authority of India has not taken this fact into consideration while building the National Highway from Ambala to Delhi.
In the last six months I was told repeatedly that the road is complete. About time! Sher Shah Suri started it, the British improved upon it and we haven’t a notion of what to do with it. Sorry people, the road is far from complete!
I recently drove to Delhi. My SUV, weighing almost two tons, should have stayed glued to the road. It did not. It was like a row boat on a choppy sea. The road surface was wavy. True, it looked freshly laid and smooth, but it had sunk. The smooth surface was illusionary.
But, why had it sunk?
Years ago, we had only the single rear axle Tata trucks on the road. These were rated at two-ton loading capacity. After being readied for the road, that means, adding additional leaf springs and stronger tyres, the trucks could carry 10 tons or more.
Along came the double rear axle trucks. Then came the 10/12/18 wheeler trucks; they could carry 40-50-60 tons. However, the roads and bridges stayed the same. I have been stuck on the National Highway when an overloaded truck broke a bridge. It simply could not carry the weight of a modern-day juggernaut.
And, on my last trip to Delhi, I was flabbergasted to see 22-wheeler trucks! My guesstimate is that these carry 100 tons or more. I saw trucks with four-wheel steering. Yes! The four up front wheels are controlled by the steering to help these monsters go around the corners. The load is as long as a railway carriage. The present-day roads were never built for these behemoths. Little wonder then that the roads have sunk to the extent that one gets sea-sick on land.
The smallest sedans, which weigh around 850 kg, they are capable of high speeds. For the unwary and unsuspecting driver, any uneven surface can destabilise the car. So, other than damaging roads and bridges, these vehicles pose a danger to just about every road user.
I am pained to say that we have world class cars, third world class roads and low class drivers. Neither are roads safe from the technical point of view, nor is policing any good. On my trip to Delhi and back, I did not see a single police car patrolling to check contraventions or regulate traffic and challan the offenders.
Speed limits are flouted, and so are overtaking rules. Heavy vehicles stick to the fast lane, metal rods protrude from trucks and tractors pull two and three trollies converting them into small road trains. Wheat straw (toorie) loaded trucks are the size of a barn, buses zigzag and zoom-cut lanes.
The same trucks, tractors and buses, the minute they enter Delhi, move to the left hand lane and stick there.
The Delhi Police cracked the whip during Asiad and brought traffic under control. Where there is a will there is a way.
So if Delhi can do it, why can’t the NHAI? A lackadaisical attitude and a lack of will is the answer. The result is a chaotic, dangerous and a killer road.