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On August 28, the breakdown of a truck on the service lane of the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, just before the turn to the Dwarka Link Road, resulted in a 7.5-kilometre congestion till Iffco Chowk, leading to an hour-long delay for commuters.
Gurugram traffic police had to ask the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the e-way concessionaire, Millennium City Expressway Private Limited (MCEPL), for a hydraulic crane to remove the vehicle.
When the crane tried to lift the vehicle up, its axel broke. Due to a strong chance of the truck turning over, the towing process had to be suspended until four mechanics had repaired the axel and a heavy hydra crane was outsourced to move the vehicle. The truck was finally removed after six hours.
This, however, is not a standalone incident of traffic being disrupted on the expressway due to the dearth of necessary infrastructure to tow away heavy vehicles that break down along its 28-km-long stretch.
In fact, in more than 11 years since the expressway was constructed, the NHAI and its concessionaire are yet to acquire the equipment necessary to move heavy vehicles that break down on the e-way. The failure to move heavy vehicles has often resulted in long snarls along the expressway, especially in the last four months.
As per MCEPL’s report, on September 6, 73,373 vehicles entered the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway from the Kherki Daula toll plaza, of which 2,903 were buses, 1,684 were trucks, and 3,194 were multi-axel vehicles.
MCEPL’s hydra cranes are located at the Sirhaul toll plaza and Kherki Daula toll plaza, respectively. However, they are only equipped to move vehicles weighing up to 14 tonnes, whereas, on an average, heavy vehicles, such as four-wheeler trucks, can weigh anywhere between 10 to 18 tonnes, while multi-axel vehicles weigh in excess of 20 tonnes. This forces officials to often outsource heavy hydra cranes from private contractors, leading to delays.
To cite another example, on May 22, the traffic flow on the Gurugram-Delhi side of the expressway was disrupted for three hours after a truck broke down ahead of the Mahipalpur flyover. For three hours, the expressway experienced a five-km-long jam until the outsourced hydra crane arrived and moved the truck away.
NHAI officials said that discussions are ongoing with the MCEPL for hiring a full-time 40-ton heavy hydra crane, while MCEPL officials said that they are waiting on the NHAI to give its final approval on the same.
“The matter is being looked into. We are in discussions with the MCEPL for procuring a 40-ton hydra crane to be available round the clock,” said Ashok Sharma, project director of NHAI.
“All necessary formalities for procuring a heavy hydra crane have been completed. Only the NHAI headquarters needs to give a final nod to the same. Once it is received, we will implement the facility on the expressway right away. It is likely to be put to use by the end of this month,” said S Raguraman, chief executive officer (CEO) of MCEPL said.
Raguraman said that the MCEPL has tie-ups with private companies based at Narsinghpur and Hero Honda Chowk, which supply heavy hydra cranes when the need arises but said that the company will be soon deploying its own full-time crane along the expressway. He further said that the lack of heavy hydra cranes was not the only reason leading to congestion.
“The expressway has been designed in such a manner that even the breakdown of a car can lead a 15-20-long minute congestion. Even with the full-time availability of heavy hydra crane, the breakdown of a heavy truck can still lead to 30-45 minutes of congestion. There are other factors, such as lack of availability of expert engineers, that also cause delays in the towing process,” said Raguraman.
On June 5, the traffic between two major junctions, Iffco Chowk and Shankar Chowk, was disrupted for two hours when a semi-trailer truck broke down near the Iffco Chowk flyover.
Similarly, on June 14, an overloaded truck carrying rocks from Jaipur to Delhi broke down on the Signature Towers flyover, resulting in vehicular movement between Rajiv Chowk and Signature Towers being severely disrupted for nearly two hours.
MCEPL officials said that in both the incidents, the driver of the trucks had applied hydraulic brakes, which needed to be loosened before the vehicle could be towed away or else their axels might have broken or the trucks could have toppled over completely.
“We often encounter a situation where the truck driver has applied hydraulic brakes and cannot be traced at the spot. The NHAI has an expert engineer in Faridabad, who needs to be picked from his residence every time such a situation arises. It takes him over an hour to reach the spot, and more than an hour to loosen the brakes that result in long delays and heavy congestion on the expressway,” said Raguraman.
Himanshu Garg, DCP, Gurugram traffic police, said that swift response mechanism is vital for clearing congestion on the expressway and added that the round-the-clock availability of facilities, such as a heavy hydra crane, is extremely vital to prevent traffic congestion.
“If a truck breaks down on the New Delhi side of the expressway, it takes little time for the traffic backlog to extend well into Gurugram, simply because of the high volume of traffic on this stretch. The expressway is not only a lifeline to commuters of the two cities but those travelling from far-off places, such as Jaipur. Thus, a swift response mechanism, in the form of heavy hydra cranes, is extremely vital as a lot of time is spent in arranging for them. Often, by the time the facility is available, traffic movement on the expressway deteriorates considerably and it takes hours for the movement to be restored to normalcy,” said Garg.
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Delhi traffic police officials also highlighted the breakdown of heavy vehicles as a major cause for snarls along the 11-year-old expressway.
“We’re an enforcement agency. The towing of vehicles in case of breakdowns is the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle. That said, breakdowns of heavy vehicles is a huge reason for traffic snarls, especially on expressways and we do assist people who complain about such jams on our helplines. We deploy additional staff to manage the traffic,” a senior Delhi traffic police official said.
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