A non-stop trip from the Delhi-Gurugram border to Jaipur in Rajasthan through the new Sohna-Dausa section of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will take under four hours, HT found during a spot check on Tuesday, a day before the key stretch is thrown open for the public.
The gleaming 246-km section, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated on Sunday, will cut travel times between Delhi and Jaipur by around two hours, despite bottlenecks on the Agra-Jaipur highway significantly impairing the commute once a traveller exits the new expressway, HT found during its check.
The Sohna-Dausa stretch of the 1,380km-long Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will open for commuters at 8am on Wednesday and offer an alternative to the congested Delhi-Jaipur Expressway. It will also improve connectivity between Gurugram, Nuh, Palwal and adjoining areas that will be connected to the expressway via loops.
HT covered the distance till Bhandarej toll plaza near Dausa travelling largely between speeds of 100km/h and 110km/h, a shade below the permitted 120km/h speed limit.
The team started at 1.40pm near Ambience Mall in Gurugram and covered the 227 kms distance till Bhandarej in Dausa in 2 hours and 45 minutes. At Bandarej toll plaza in Dausa, a commuter must exit the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway and head on to the Agra-Jaipur highway. From there, the 65 kms trip to Jaipur took 75 minutes.
To be sure, HT took no breaks during the 3 hour-55 minute trip. Further, amenities on the stretch are still choppy, with just around one way side amenity at Firozpur Jhirka comprising one food vending truck, one petrol pump, and one large restroom functional right now. Further, there are no operational CNG pumps on the stretch either, with the first such vend after Gurugram only on the Agra-Jaipur stretch, in what may be a crippling limitation for such vehicles.
Three way side amenities on this stretch falling in Jaipur were found functional, which had rest rooms, eateries and restaurants for the commuters.
A wayside public amenity comprising a restaurant, petrol pump, restrooms and other facilities between Delhi and Jaipur is still under-construction at the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) crossing, 19km away from Alipur village, from where the toll plaza starts in Gurugram. The crossing also connects the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway to the KMP Expressway, a vital stretch that helps divert Haryana-bound highway traffic away from the national capital. This facility is likely to take another six months to wrap up, said an NHAI official. .
As a result, prepare to pack your vehicle refreshments. The first functional amenity after Gurugram, found HT, is around 120km away, at Firozpur Jhirka in Nuh.
Ashish Agarwal, who operates a fuel vend at the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC)-managed amenity was opened on February 12.
“We have a restaurant, restrooms, parking, food court, EV charging station, petrol pump and dormitory for truckers,” he said, commending the new stretch.
The new stretch has few bumps and offers a breezy ride for the most part, allowing drivers a seamless drive and occupants enough opportunity to gaze at the Aravallis that border the picturesque highway on the left and the endless expanse of farmland on the right.
The key hiccup presents itself in the 69km from Bandarej in Dausa to Jaipur, in what is an undulating, congested stretch. This final leg, on the narrow four-lane expressway, blots an otherwise easy trip, and will need vital upgrades if the central government’s stated aim of a three-hour trip from Delhi to Jaipur is to be met.
The new expressway is equipped with safety checks from the get-go, said officials.
To ensure a safe ride on the highway, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has also set up provisions for ambulances, patrol vehicles and automatic traffic-monitoring to cut incident response turnaround times on this stretch, said Mudit Garg, NHAI project director.
On Tuesday, the National Highways Authority of India had deployed around 20 traffic marshals to prevent motorbikes, three-wheelers and tractor trolleys entering the expressway.
“The movement of these vehicles is not allowed,” one of the marshalls said.