Why India isn’t ready to be an ‘Expressway’ country and it’s not the Government to blame

The new Gurugram to Jaipur Super Expressway promises to cut down travel time to just 90 minutes but probably we aren''t ready for such infrastructure and here's what is holding us back.

By: | Updated: March 15, 2017 5:17 PM

A new super expressway between Gurugram (Gurgaon) to Jaipur will reduce travel time between the two cities to just 90 minutes from the five to six hours required right now. This is not yet another lofty claim by a Government but a reality, which should be ready in the next 15 months. The 200-odd kilometres long expressway will be one of its kind in the country and it goes without saying that cutting down travel time between two large cities to just 1/3 rd of the present duration will have immense socio-economic benefits. Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping has already laid the foundation stone for this highway and the Government needs to be lauded for coming up with a project of this scale and benefits.

Read about: New Gurugram to Jaipur Super Expressway to cut down travel time to just 90 minutes!

Who makes expressways unsafe?

However, there seems to be a major safety concern too, which if left unaddressed could add significantly to the already highest road fatalities in the world on Indian roads. The concern becomes clear once the Government's claims are run though basic Mathematics. A 200 km + distance in under 90 minutes would need an average speed of around 130 km/h. Now maintaining an average speed that high needs the top speed to at times exceed 150 km/h. Majority of the cars sold in the country start floating like boats in choppy waters at such speeds.

These are seriously quick speed limits even by European standards even some sections of the Autobahns in Germany have lesser speed limits than being proposed for the new Gurgaon-Jaipur expressway. The Government is open to raising the speed limits for this new expressway as it'll be access-controlled so the chances of pedestrians or animals popping up in front of a vehicle will be minimum. However, there's another problem that is more dangerous than anything else and that's the drivers.

Traffic sense and knowledge about traffic rules is extremely poor in India, which is due to a number of factors including lack of awareness and weak implementation of laws. As a result, despite car-ownership being per 1,000 people being minuscule compared to Europe, we have the most dangerous civilised roads on the planet. With the kind of population we have and the number of people gearing up to buy vehicles, our roads could soon turn into ticking bombs, unless a 360 degree approach is taken for road safety, something the new super expressway might lack in the next 15 months.
Imagine a scenario wherein a driver going at 140 km/h suddenly comes across a driver who's pulling up to relieve himself or to smoke a cigarette. Even worse, there are people who leave broken down vehicles with a branch of some plant to indicate a problem. My question is by what logic is green going to be visible from a distance when the background itself is mostly grey and green. During dark the results of such actions mixed with speeds close to 150 km/h can have catastrophic results.

Broken down vehicles also brings up the point of vehicle health as most vehicles entering the expressway won't be fit to drive at anywhere close to its speed limit. A quick look around you will reveal the poor health of tyres people maintain for their vehicles. Worn out tyres and under/ over inflated tyres can be extremely quick agents of converting life to death and the Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway is a testimony to the same. Recent media reports stated that in about more than 4.5 years, the Yamuna Expressway has witnessed more than 4,000 accidents, resulting in 548 fatalities. These are truly disturbing numbers for road with maximum speed limit of 100 km/h and we are talking about an increase to the tune of 40 % already!

Who's going to check whether a vehicle is in the right health to go on to the expressway? What about the safety hazards about people driving at half the speed limit in the right lane?

These are some safety concerns that come immediately to the mind but the list runs really long. Accidents taking place at such high speeds rarely leave room for survival and even if they do, in many cases the after-life isn't normal. The worrying part about these concerns is that they are more due to the fault of drivers and road users and not just the Government.

Is there a solution in place?

While India is making good progress in the economic path, especially under the present Government, authorities need to be extra-sensitive to safety concerns. The economic damage of accidents is already unbelievably high for India. The economic impact o accidents in India in the year 2014 was 3 % of the national GDP, which translates into a figure of around Rs 3.8 lakh crore. The social cost in form of grief is much high and impossible to calculate. So hopefully, authorities will keep safety concerns firmly in mind over the next 15-odd months of making this new super expressway and implement them effectively once the expressway is ready. If that happens, this could be a highway to development. If not, accidents at such high speeds could make this a highway to hell!

  1. M
    Milind
    Jun 19, 2017 at 11:50 am
    Yes. We are not ready for high speed infrastructure. Our entire systems is tuned up to drive our vehicles on any road with average speed of 50km/hr. India is at least required fifteen to twenty years to transformed her population in particular mind frame of discipline society to have and utilised such infrastructure.
    Reply
    1. G
      Gopal singh
      Jun 19, 2017 at 10:34 am
      I believe now india needs trafic education at school level.
      Reply
      1. R
        ronny
        Jun 8, 2017 at 5:05 pm
        "While India is making good progress in the economic path, especially under the present Government" hey admin what do u mean by this line..?
        Reply
        1. V
          Vivek
          Apr 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm
          You need to change the headline to "Why India will NEVER be ready to be an "Expressway" country". The points you raised will always be true of Indian drivers.
          Reply
          1. R
            Raghunandan Reddy
            Mar 20, 2017 at 9:53 am
            cant agree more, but south indian roads are much safer than northern parts of india. Kids should be thought about traffic sense. Driving tests should be much stricter
            Reply
            1. G
              gopal
              Mar 15, 2017 at 11:52 am
              Well said. Road Safety is also equally important. There should be a mandatory training to be taken up by all licensed vehicle owners on road safety once every 2 years and till completion of the same license should be suspended. Govt should invest more on road safety campaign and encourage better driving practices.People who maintain accident free record for vehicles for 3-5 years should be given incentive while purchasing insurance policies for the vehicle
              Reply
              1. H
                Hitesh Thakkar
                Mar 15, 2017 at 9:18 am
                While discipline and personal safety is an individual thing but the core responsibility, of course remains with the administration. Building roads, highways & expressways is just one thing, however most of our roads, highways, expressways will flatly FAIL the standards of common sense, lest International road safety standards.Simply take for example, regular street roads DO NOt have Speed limits specified by means of sufficient signage, nor do we have the most basic use of zebra crossings deplo even at schools or hospitals.Take Highways for example the laning system is so bizarre,with no speed limits, no demarked cross ways etc are itself a huges hazard.Almost same goes for the Expressways, but multiplies with the increased speed limits.Old Laws/Systems: Come to Licensing which is one of the most ineffective, corrupt and inept systems prevalent with British Era laws. Imagine "Bombay Road Act" being used in this 21st century, where a hit-n-run person can get bail in few hours.The lack of a good system is due to many reasons like, absence of study & knowledge of the needs of Indian mentality and habits.Duality - Most commercial operators are be it private or government do not even have safety belts on their vehicles....!!Enforcement - When it comes to enforcement of laws, it literally means to "Fill up the Quota", both for the department and for the traffic enforcing community. Not much has being sought for beyond it.Example: Can any one guess how many numbers of Speed guns & Breath Analyzers does a city of 21 MILLION have...???Licencing: The biggest flaw lies in the licensing department. There is hardly any knowledge bank, Information material or awareness study for the youngsters to be instilled before issuing even a learning licence. Imagine one office of West zone of RTO Mumbai serving a potion of 5 Mega Suburbs of Mumbai and imagine the pitiful TEST Zone for taking driving tests of new comers. It is a practical joke.There are many, many more reasons that the responsibility of the State cannot be shirked in any ways as them being the prime stake holders.Like wise as stated in the beginning the discipline & safety is an individual subject matter but enforcing it in the right manner is in totality a State matter and a lot needs to be done on their part.Willingness to do so would be a good start, or else by adding every more kms of new roads is literally adding thousands more to the list of dead and deceased.
                Reply
                1. V
                  Vivek
                  Apr 26, 2017 at 2:24 pm
                  We don't need no stinkin' speed guns in the cities. We have road humps every 50 metres, and pot s between them. Organic speed control, you could say.
                  Reply
                  1. R
                    Reeto
                    May 22, 2017 at 1:54 pm
                    Yes Vivek fully agreed
                2. D
                  Drogo Bander
                  Mar 20, 2017 at 6:51 am
                  yup very valid article. to sum it up - desi driving skills are rotten. so is sense of awareness and respect for the law.
                  Reply
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