Speed craze without discipline is proving a major killer on Uttar Pradesh’s two expressways. While the Yamuna Expressway has taken nearly a thousand lives since 2012, the Agra-Lucknow Expressway has recorded over 100 deaths. With nearly seven lakh vehicles using the new Agra-Lucknow Expressway, reducing travel time to just five hours, the authorities have failed to come up with a fool-proof mechanism to check speeding.
According to an RTI filed by K.C. Jain, Secretary of the Agra Development Foundation, “in nine months, there were 853 accidents and 100 deaths”. It is estimated that within a year, one crore vehicles will start using the expressway, remitting Rs 200 crore as toll tax. The 302-km Agra-Lucknow Expressway, a project of the Akhilesh Yadav government, was opened on December 23, 2016. Toll tax was imposed on January 19, 2018.
While the Expressway is becoming popular, the departments concerned have not yet provided policing or ambulance facilities. “Petrol pump, car mechanics or puncture shops are non-existent. It is one long desolate grey strip through a never-ending wasteland,” said a frequent user of the expressway, Sudhier Gupta.
Originally the Agra-Lucknow Expressway was designed for a maximum speed of 120 km per hour with automatic traffic management systems aimed at reducing road accidents. The six-lane expressway, expandable to eight lanes, includes four rail over bridges, 13 major bridges, 57 minor bridges, 74 vehicular underpasses, 148 pedestrian underpasses and nine flyovers. The road was built in a record time of 23 months at a cost of Rs 15,000 crore. The expressway spans 10 districts, 236 villages and 3,500 hectares of land.
It connects Agra and Lucknow via Shikohabad, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Etawah, Auraiya, Kannauj, Kanpur Nagar, Unnao and Hardoi. It passes through four National and two state highways and over five rivers (Ganga, Yamuna, Isan, Sai and Kalyani). The state government had promised that the expressway would have a series of development centres, agricultural mandis, schools, ITIs, rest houses, petrol pumps, service centres and public amenities. But till date, there has been no progress in this direction.