Despite mounting death toll, no E-way safety audit so far

Jun 27, 2012, 07:51 IST | Sandip Kolhatkar and Sukirt D Gumaste

The country's first expressway was built over a decade ago on a 94-km stretch between the city and Mumbai and was instantly hailed as a marvel of engineering that had brought the two cities closer, but soon the accident statistics started piling up, and deaths continue to tarnish the reputation of the high-speed highway even today.

In just the past month, as many as 38 people lost their lives and 61 were injured in a number of accidents on the Yashwantrao Chavan Mumbai-Pune Expressway, as it is officially called.

This won’t do: The spot of an accident on the Expressway; (below) the cracks are showing on the decade old Expressway, and experts say that the unevenly worn surfaces need to be smoothened. PICs/Krunal Gosavi

In spite of the frequent accidents, no safety audit of the Expressway has ever been done since its opening. The first part of the Expressway was thrown open in 2000, and it was made fully operational from 2002.

Need 3rd-party audit
Experts now feel there is an ardent need for a third-party safety audit which will point out the lapses and the maintenance woes on the

After the recent accidents on the Expressway, MiD DAY joined experts of the Central Institute of Road Transportation (CIRT) and an IRB patrolling team on a daylong survey of the 94-km highway and found that not only is it ill-maintained but also has several infrastructural and security lapses along its length.

Prashant Kakade, coordinator, Management Development Centre of CIRT, who was a part of this exercise, said the number of vehicles using the Expressway kept increasing every year and there was a need to make changes accordingly.

“To know the changing requirements of the commuters, there should be an audit after specific intervals of time, which can be from one to three years, to identify and evaluate infrastructure-related problems,” Kakade said.

Problem areas
He said even if human error was causing many accidents, the IRB could do many things to avoid situations that might lead to mishaps. “Though the major accidents are taking place on the Expressway because of the fault of the driver, the onus is on the IRB to look after the maintenance of the road as at many places the median is punctured (broken) illegally and at most of the places the surface is unevenly worn out,” Kakade said. “The fence is broken along the side of the road at many places and two-wheelers are seen using the Expressway though they are not supposed to be there.”

Harshad Abhyankar, president, Save Traffic, said it was the job of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) to inspect and upgrade the Expressway as well as educate people on traffic discipline.

“Crores of rupees have been spent on this infrastructural project, but till now no evaluation has been done by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation,” Abhyankar said. “It is the responsibility of the MSRDC to inspect the road and upgrade it from time to time. Along with this, it should educate the people about the use of the Expressway.”

An MSRDC official said a team of engineers had been appointed to look into infrastructure problems related to safety. “We have appointed special team of safety engineers to evaluate infrastructure problems,” the official said. “The team prepares a report every month. There are very minor defects on the Expressway. Statistical data has also revealed that 90 per cent of the accidents are because of human errors. Speeding is the major cause. There should be some control on the drivers and this control should be exercised by the highway police as that is not our responsibility.”

Accidents on Expressway
SINCE 2005, the expressway has seen more than 10,000 accidents, which have claimed nearly 650 lives and left hundreds disabled and maimed. According to data furnished by the IRB, the total number of accidents on the Expressway from April 15, 2005, till February 29 this year stands at 10,197. 

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