SRINAGAR: Srinagar is unlikely to get any relief from traffic jams as interventions brought in by the state government-appointed traffic advisor have so far, according to insiders, proved a failure.
Anuj Malhotra was appointed as traffic advisor in October on the recommendations of Tassaduq Mufti, erstwhile coordinator of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s grievance cell, and also the CM’s brother. Malhotra was tasked with planning and designing a traffic system that could avoid frequent jams. He was engaged for an extendable period of three years and given the status of a government secretary.
According to traffic officials, Malhotra erected a circle of plastic dividers at Dalgate and in Rajbagh near Zero Bridge.
“At Dalgate, it was a complete failure. The traffic jams run for hours in the morning and in the evening. It was later decided that it was better to widen the roads for smooth flow of traffic,” a traffic official said.
“In Rajbagh area, the circle brought more misery to the traffic cops. There began traffic jams during peak hours in the morning and evening. It proved that the design was not working at all,” the official said.
Officials said that both at Rajbagh and Zero bridge, a vehicle had to earlier make a “C” turn at plastic dividers placed there, a turn that took less than two seconds. After the plastic dividers were put in a circle, the time taken by a vehicle to cross the intersection increased to four seconds. “This further slowed down the traffic and brought more chaos,” officials said, adding that instead of traffic jams the advisor is more concerned about pedestrians.
Another step taken by Malhotra, they said, was the creation of roadside parking spaces.
“Despite being strongly recommended to not create roadside parking, particularly in Lal Chowk area where there are bottlenecks, the advisor went ahead with the roadside parking. It squeezed the roads and further increased traffic jams,” officials said.
The officials stressed that it was imperative to widen the roads to get rid of the traffic chaos.
“Every day, 30,000 new private vehicles hit the roads. Besides, about 40,000 taxis enter Srinagar,” an official said. “It is necessary that we widen the roads. The road width is the same as it was in 1947. There is no other way to deal with this mammoth rise in number of vehicles.”
Malhotra told Kashmir Reader that traffic jams were not unique to Kashmir, hence there was no need to panic.
“I have made small interventions, but they are on trial basis,” Malhotra said. “They have been a success. The students of NIT Srinagar have hailed my designing.”
He denied that interventions introduced at Rajbagh and Dalgate were a failure.
“During peak hours, only one arm of the road was operational, which would allow 25 vehicles to move at the intersections. After the circles were erected, the flow of traffic increased to 50 vehicles per minute. The good thing is that all the three arms of the road remain operational,” Malhotra said.
He claimed that traffic jams would decrease in the coming months.
“We are in the process of designing the traffic plan,” Malhotra said. “There is need of some road widening at places. We are also introducing intelligent traffic signals on the spot. There are no traffic signals at major intersections.” On Thursday, during a tour of the city, Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan directed removal of the permitted roadside parking at certain places on MA Road. According to an official press release, the said parking spaces had “proved to be a bottleneck”.