It seems ‘safety first’ is not a motto Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) places much faith in. Despite more than 1,000 accidents reported on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor since a pilot project took off seven years ago, the civic body is vehemently denying the possibility of a road safety audit before throwing the 16-km Vishrantwadi- Kharadi stretch open.
Speaking on the issue, PMC additional city engineer Vivek Kharwadkar said, “It is not the case that safety auditing and suitable measures have not been undertaken for the ongoing work of BRT corridor. Our own engineers are checking and running tests on the strip, and all necessary stratagems are being worked out.
It is not mandatory that we hire a private institution for this road safety audit; we are a government body and there is a procedure to do such important assessments. So, we will not be carrying out any such road safety audit through private bodies.” The death of two youngsters on Nov 7, on the BRT corridor near Vega Centre on Shankar Sheth Road has again raised various questions about the ongoing project work in the city.
Currently, work on the new 16-km BRT stretch at Vishrantwadi and Nagar Road is in its final stages. Experts say there is need to look at the safety measures of the BRT corridors, considering the unpleasant experience of the pilot project of Katraj to Hadapsar. In the 1,000 accidents on the route since then, at least 50 people have lost their lives.
Prashant Inamdar, convener of Pedestrian First, said, “Audit is always done by third party. Mistakes should be pointed out by an external agency. Decision to carry out an internal assessment by PMC is not enough.” This is not the first time that PMC has spelt out its stand on such a check to ensure safety of commuters. In 2010, Pune BRT committee had plainly ruled out an audit aimed at minimising accidents on the routes.
But, on the other hand, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) has gone ahead and appointed IIT Powai to do a road safety check of the 12-km BRT stretch on old Pune-Mumbai highway. “Yes, we recently conducted this road safety audit for one of our BRT lanes, and it was very useful to us.
Through this appraisal we came to know about the faults in not only the corridor, but also on the entire road on that stretch. The suggestions given by them to improve road safety and make the BRT corridor more commuter-friendly have been welcomed by us. Soon, we will start implementing their recommendations on the stretch. If necessary, we will again do this audit on other corridors in our BRT project,” said Dr Shrikar Pardeshi, commissioner of PCMC.
Speaking to MiD DAY, Dr P Vedagiri, assistant professor of civil engineering department at IIT Powai, said, “Our team of professors studied the BRT project of PCMC, and after doing detailed research and audit of the 12-km stretch, we have submitted our report to them. It mostly consists of solutions for the current problems in the prevalent situation, like passengers’ access to bus stops, effective signaling, lane discipline of vehicles, among other things. We provided an animated video presentation to PCMC on the same.”
Corridors of uncertainty
In 2010, the BRT committee of Pune for the first time suggested the need for a road safety audit by ‘Central Road Research Institute’. This proposal was over the four identified potential BRT corridors of 68 km – Warje to Kharadi (22 km), Kothrud depot to Vishrantwadi (17 km), Dhayari to Hadapsar Gadital (17 km) and Kalewadi Phata to Katraj (17.5 km). In its first phase, which started in Sept 2012, work on 16 km began on three routes on Sangamwadi Road, Alandi Road and Nagar Road. The ongoing work has missed the Oct 15 deadline that has been extended till Nov 25.
Suggestions given by IIT professors to PCMC:
>> There are many merge-in and out points on the 12-km stretch. At these points, direction boards should be displayed. Speed breakers and rumblers should be set up at these locations to reduce the speed of vehicles.
>> There are four central lanes for fast-moving traffic, five subways and six major junctions on this stretch. The audit has identified damages in the dividers, which have to be reconstructed to have smooth traffic flow on both sides.
>> Thermal plasma paint can be used to highlight the pedestrian ways at the bus stops and crossings.
>> Special lighting system should be used at night not only at the bus stops, but also near the crossings and junctions on the BRT corridor