Political circus forces cops to keep dangerous Vakola-WEH bridge open

Updated: Nov 26, 2019, 07:24 IST | Anurag Kamble | Mumbai

Despite being dilapidated, all the political tamasha happening in the city means the police have been unable to conduct trials for alternative routes.

A convoy of politicians on Hans Bhugra Marg near Western Express Highway. Pic/Shadab Khan
A convoy of politicians on Hans Bhugra Marg near Western Express Highway. Pic/Shadab Khan

The political upheaval in the city over the last few days has meant that major decisions, which if not taken on time, might jeopardise the lives of thousands of commuters. In order to make way for a convoy of politicians, traffic cops could not conduct diversion trials on Monday to shut down the dilapidated Vakola bridge. They have also been busy managing traffic on Hans Bhugra Marg to keep it clear for VIP movement.

Requesting anonymity, a traffic cop said, "There has been a lot of VIP movement, obviously of politicians, on the WEH for the past three to four days. Traffic cops on the highway are busy keeping these roads clear for the movement. Priority is being given to the traffic movement instead of the road diversion trials."

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who is notably not in neta attire, helps NCP chief Sharad Pawar to his feet during the show of strength at Grand Hyatt on Monday evening. Pic/Rane Ashish
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who is notably not in neta attire, helps NCP chief Sharad Pawar to his feet during the show of strength at Grand Hyatt on Monday evening. Pic/Rane Ashish

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had declared the bridge on Hans Bhugra Marg dilapidated in March this year and had decided to stop vehicular movement on it from November 23. But, the traffic cops conducted diversion trials on Thursday and Friday and found that the alternative routes were leading to massive traffic jams.

The cops had decided to conduct more trials around 5pm on Monday. Sources said the trials had to be cancelled as the MLAs were being shifted to Grand Hyatt Hotel at Vakola.  "We had planned to conduct a diversion trial on Monday evening, but it was cancelled due to some unavoidable circumstances," said Sandeep Bhajibhakre, DCP (traffic-suburbs).

The Vakola bridge was supposed to be shut for repairs on November 23. Pic/Shadab Khan
The Vakola bridge was supposed to be shut for repairs on November 23. Pic/Shadab Khan
 
The traffic police have issued a no-objection certificate to the civic body so that they can start work on the bridge but nothing can be done till they find viable alternative routes. "We tried diverting vehicles via Nehru Road, Military Camp Road and BKC but it's leading to a lot of chaos," added another officer.

According to sources, the cops have decided to wait till the state's political situation normalises. However, when asked, Joint Commissioner (traffic), Madhukar Pande, said, "There is no such condition. It's clear speculation." 

Nov 23
Day the traffic police was meant to shut Vakola bridge

Busy stretch 

Hans Bhugra Marg connecting CST Road in Kurla-Kalina to the Western Express Highway in Santacruz (East) has a number of five-star hotels, hospitals, headquarters of the Maharashtra Forensic Sciences Laboratory and the entrance to the Mumbai University located along the stretch. For university students it's a go-to road during peak hours, with the Nehru Road connecting WEH to MU facing major traffic snarls.

All in the name

Hans Bhugra was a two-term corporator in BMC between 1967-1977, and was also elected MLA on a Congress ticket from Santacruz. He died due to heart attack. The Bhugra family is originally from Lahore. They shifted to Mumbai after partition. Vijay Bhugra, son of Late Hans Bhugra, said, "The road was not maintained properly from the beginning. The bridge must be from the British era, but it was never repaired. As the route has become a prominent one, its closure will definitely create chaos."

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