Why commuters on Mumbai-Pune E-way are having a harrowing time

Aug 11, 2015, 14:35 IST | Maleeva Rebello

Recent landslides have meant that the hill side of Expressway is closed for hours every day. Commuters are suffering not just because of the work, but the lack of communication, too

The distance between Mumbai and Pune, shortened considerably thanks to the Expressway, now seems longer. Recent landslides have meant that the hill side of the Expressway has been closed for hours every day causing huge traffic jams. Commuters on the Expressway shuttling between Mumbai and Pune are suffering not just because of the work, but the lack of communication, too.

Also Read: Major landslide at Mumbai-Pune Expressway, 1 dead, 2 injured

People have been complaining of confusion over the status of the Expressway
People have been complaining of confusion over the status of the Expressway

Allan Tony Selvan, an engineer from Andheri who works in Pune says, “Recently there was a massive confusion on the Expressway as one of the tunnels was closed down. This meant that the four lane road was constricted to two lanes. It took me almost four hours just to cross the area where the work was going on. The 3.5 hours travel was extended to 7 hours.”

Repair works being carried out on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway after a landslide that occurred near Khopoli. Pics/PTI
Repair works being carried out on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway after a landslide that occurred near Khopoli. Pics/PTI

Pritul Sanghavi, Senior Vice President at Anakin Management Consultants adds, “Since the past three weeks, I was stranded in one location for two hours, twice with practically no information on when things would get moving. They diverted us to the Old Highway, and there was a massive jam on that as well.” Pune resident Michelle Varghese who works in Mumbai says, “I was stuck in a jam while travelling back to Mumbai from Pune due to the diversion a few weeks ago.”

Anuraag Monteiro from Pune works in Mumbai. He says, “There is a bit of confusion as to whether the road is open or not. When the first landslide took place, I was stuck half way and had to return to Pune and find another way to get to Mumbai.”

Moksh Juneja had to visit a friend in hospital in Pune and says “I chose to travel by train, which was a first for me, since I always went by road prior to this. I live in Chembur, so Pune seems closer by road, with the effort to go to a station get on to a train and spend the same or more travel time putting me off on other occasions.”

Landslide effect: Length of tunnels on Mumbai-Pune Expressway to be increased

Pune based writer Sudha Menon who comes to Mumbai often for work, says she has stopped coming to the city since the Expressway work has started. She adds, “I love the freedom that a car journey gives me. It allows me to start whenever I want. I have had to reschedule a few appointments but fortunately I have the flexibility to do it.”

Varghese says, “I travel to Pune every other weekend because my family is there but I work in Mumbai. Ever since the landslide happened, I wouldn’t say I have been at ease, my parents especially haven’t. They prefer that I travel by train but since I live in Goregaon, bus or cab is most viable. There are signs on the road, but people still get confused and it just leads to a huge traffic jam.”

Pooja Pilankar says, “After the landslides, I avoid going to Pune because I don’t feel it is safe to travel by road anymore. Now, lots of people prefer to travel by train, subsequently locals between Pune and Mumbai are more crowded.” Engineer Aldon Vaz who works in Pune says, “I come home to Mumbai every weekend and so I now choose to travel early in the mornings.

I also plan ahead so that I can waste less time on travel.” “I sometimes skip travelling if I hear about too much confusion on the Expressway from my friends who travelled the previous day. But when I am in Mumbai I have to head back as I cannot skip work, so this Expressway work and landslides are causing me a lot of anguish,” adds Selvan.

Sanghvi says, “Last week, I travelled with my daughter and wife, and was tense throughout the journey, as I didn’t know what to expect when and where. The Ghat travel makes me very uncomfortable with the recent spate of landslides.” “Trains between Mumbai and Pune need to be increased. But the same number are being run which results in overcrowding,” says Menon.

Commuters are hoping for better communication on the Expressway status from authorities. “There should be a number to call or a website where information is available. Perhaps a broadcast message on Twitter or Facebook on the Expressway work would be useful too,” suggests Sanghvi.

Video: Landslide blocks traffic on Mumbai-Pune Expressway

Juneja says, “Authorities need to send timely updates to newspapers as well as news websites, television news channels and social media. So, people can make better arrangements.” For the moment, friends and acquaintances that have travelled a day prior are the best source of information.

Varghese says, “I try to find out from friends or online what the situation is before I leave for either Pune or Mumbai. It hinders the frequency of my trips, because I don’t think it’s entirely safe yet to travel so often. You never know when there will be a landslide again.”

Pilankar says, “People who travel often to Pune and back, are now feeling unsafe. Most of us have cut down on travelling. The authorities should shed some light on the developments that are happening to at least assure commuters. So far, the Twitter community has been a good source for updates.”

“Authorities need to fix the problem. It’s okay if they have to shut the Expressway for a while but at least that will avoid problems and inconvenience. Doing it in bits and pieces haphazardly isn’t helping because the landslides are continuing. The Old Road can be used for the interim,” suggests Varghese.

“The roads need to be maintained and especially the stretch from Khandala to Lonavla needs to be monitored in the rainy season specifically,” feels Pilankar. Selvan says, “Work should be done on weekdays and from Friday evening to Monday noon the roads should be open as it is prime time for people to travel between Pune and Mumbai via the Expressway.”

The landslide on Friday morning has taken the toll of landslides to three in the last month. The unpredictability continues for those using the Expressway with the Independence Day weekend approaching.

Mumbai-Pune Expressway facts

>> Officially known as the Yashwantrao Chavan Mumbai Pune Expressway it is India’s first six-lane concrete, high-speed, access controlled tolled Expressway.

>> It is one of India’s busiest roads.

>> The Expressway has reduced the travel time between Mumbai and Pune to approximately two hours.

>> Starts at Kalamboli near Panvel, and ends at Dehu Road near Pune. 

>> Has replaced the older Mumbai-Pune stretch of the Mumbai-Chennai National Highway (NH 4) now known as the Old Road.

>> It cleaves through the scenic Sahyadri mountain ranges through passes and tunnels. 

>> Has six interchanges at Shedung, Chowk, Khalapur, Lonavala, Kusgaon and Talegaon.

>> The Expressway has two carriageways with three concrete lanes, each separated by a central divider and a tarmac or concrete shoulder on either side.

Landslide timeline

20 July 2015
Three people were killed in the landslide near the Adoshi tunnel.

01 Aug 2015
A landslide occurred near the Khandala tunnel with huge boulders falling on the three lanes of the Mumbai carriageway disrupting traffic movement. There was no casualty.

07 Aug 2015
No one was injured and traffic was also unaffected as the landslide occurred at around 3 am.

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