Ashram flyover: Spotlight on fragile road infra as mayhem stretches far, wide


Commuters crossing or reaching south Delhi from east or central continued to struggle for routes on Tuesday as the closing of the Ashram flyover triggered jams in several areas for the second day, exposing the extent of the fragility of the city’s road infrastructure.

Traffic jams were acute on Mathura Road and Ring Road on the carriageways headed towards the Ashram intersection, as was the case on Monday, the first weekday after the crucial flyover was closed.

When HT surveyed the spots for over five hours on Tuesday, it became clear that what used to be rush hour pain was now routine, while rush hours became several times worse for commuters, including on alternative and connected routes, such as the CV Raman Marg (Eastern Avenue), Captain Gaur Marg, Lala Lajpat Rai Road, the Barapullah flyover, and the Delhi-Noida Direct (DND) Flyway.

“It took me around 30 minutes for a 300 metres drive to Ashram Chowk signal from Nehru Nagar. Earlier, it took me not more than 10 minutes,” said Shahnawaz Khan, the driver of a goods carrying three-wheeler, who travels from Okhla to Noida every day.

During morning peak hours, vehicles lined up bumper-to-bumper till the Sarai Kale Khan bus terminal, and beyond, on the Ring Road carriageway that headed towards Ashram. Similarly, on the DND Flyway, jams stretched to several kilometres.

In the evening, the chaos was mirrored, with traffic coming to a grinding to a halt at locations like Moolchand and Sarita Vihar, with tailbacks stretching 4-5km.

“I reached Mata Mandir traffic signal near NFC in 30 minutes from Faridabad. But to reach Ashram chowk crossing from there, which is nearly half a kilometre, it took me 20 minutes. I wasn’t aware of the flyover closure; otherwise I had taken the alternate route through Kalindi Kunj-Noida to reach my destination,” said Balraj Saini, who was driving towards Shahdara from Faridabad with his family.

The chaos was despite the traffic police employing out-of-the-box ways to help ease the situation. An official said 75 personnel, including Delhi Traffic Police staffers and marshals employed by the agency carrying out the construction work.

They manually guided traffic, and decision to stop or allow vehicles was being taken from a variety of inputs, including traffic situation reflected live on Google Maps and social media complaints, in addition to the more conventional control room input.

“We are constantly monitoring the traffic snarls on the GPS and accordingly directing our traffic personnel to start moving the vehicles in the affected carriageways so that traffic tailbacks do not become long. This is being done every now and then, depending on the volume of traffic on the carriageways,” said DCP (traffic) Saurabh Chandra.

The Delhi Traffic Police said it has divided the nearly five kilometres stretches in the radius of Ashram flyover into 14 points where the 75-strong force has been evenly deployed.

And yet, there was little change from the situation seen on Monday.

At fault is a mix of some inevitability – this stretch of the Capital just records too heavy a flow for the closures to not lead to chaos – and some inaction.

Iron barricades erected on both ends of the construction site on the Ring Road and construction material left on the footpaths created more obstruction than seemed needed, further narrowing the little space left for vehicles and pedestrians around the flover.

Buses halting on both carriageways of the Ring Road at Maharani Bagh further choked the traffic flow, as did pedestrians, who were left with no room to walk after footpaths were dug up.

“The footpaths are full of dirt and the walkways are uneven because at some places they are dug up or heaps of mud is left over. We risk our lives while walking on them,” said Prerna Duggal, a student approaching Ashram metro station from Maharani Bagh.

The Public Works Department (PWD) has shut the flyover for construction work that will link it to a new overpass being built 50m away, part of a high-profile project to decongest what has been a perennially problematic stretch of road. The Ashram intersection on the arterial Ring Road is used by over 350,000 vehicles daily and the flyover served to bypass traffic merging with that on the Mathura Road, which is also one of the most important routes in the Capital.

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