New Delhi: Commuters who have been spending hours stuck in traffic jams on Delhi’s first and only BRT corridor may finally be free of the mess. A day after a DTC bus killed a 12-year-old in the corridor, four Aam Aadmi Party MLAs met PWD minister Satyendar Jain and asked him to scrap the project.
Former transport minister Saurabh Bharadwaj, one of the four MLAs to have met the minister, said the concept of BRT corridors is excellent but the present stretch in Delhi has been a traffic nightmare, having created more problems than it has solved.
“The stretch on which this BRT has been made was not the best choice. For one, the bus lanes are in the middle and getting to them is a huge pain for pedestrians. Secondly, there are about four major intersections on the road and despite a very expensive smart signalling system, the implementation has failed completely. We have asked for scrapping of the existing BRT. If a study is required to see if it can be improved in any way, it can be done but, in the meantime, a temporary solution needs to be looked for. The lanes should be opened up to all vehicles,” said Bharadwaj.
As transport minister in the last AAP government, Bharadwaj had met MLAs from the area and passed a resolution to scrap the BRT. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had given an in-principle approval for this and a formal cabinet note was to be drafted. The day this decision was taken, Kejriwal resigned as CM and the matter got stuck. Making the government’s opposition to the corridor tricky was the fact that senior party functionary Prashant Bhushan had taken up the case of the BRT in court on behalf of some bus commuters, arguing in favour of retaining the corridor.
The demand by these MLAs has been bolstered by a negative traffic police testimony to the lieutenant governor a few months earlier. “The case was presented in court as a rich-versus-poor case. However, if the BRT corridor was meant to cut down on pollution, that has not happened and traffic jams have affected everyone similarly, rich or poor. This is just a case of poor planning and implementation,” said Bharadwaj.
Prakash Jarwal, MLA from Deoli, said that people in his constituency had been pressing for scrapping of the BRT for the past one year. “The stretch from Khanpur to Moolchand is packed during peak hours and the traffic situation is terrible. People had been telling me since last year that this needs to go. I, along with Bharadwaj, Kasturba Nagar MLA Madan Lal and Sangam Vihar MLA Dinesh Mohaniya, met the transport minister on Saturday and asked for this project to be scrapped,” he said.
The 5.8 km-long BRT corridor, from Ambedkar Nagar to Moolchand in south Delhi, a legacy of the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government, was opened on April 20, 2008 and was welcomed by environmentalists and several transport experts as a solution to Delhi’s traffic woes that would promote public transport. However, poor implementation and bad planning resulted in massive traffic jams in lanes meant for private vehicles. Poor management often saw private vehicles enter or cross over to the bus lane, which, by virtue of being in the middle of the corridor, only created a further mess at intersections. After considerable public outcry, the government experimented with various means of operating the BRT, opening it up completely for private vehicles at one point.
Meanwhile, under the urban development ministry’s ‘De-congest Delhi’ project, there are plans to construct five more BRT corridors in the city. Sources in the government said the move to scrap the existing project would not have any impact on the proposal since there was no opposition to BRT in principle.
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