CAPITAL PULSE: In all, about 230 km of 14 new corridors are in the works.

With limited road space in the Capital being seen as a major constraint in providing an efficient public transport system to citizens, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) had in 2005 recommended setting up of five corridors of High Capacity Bus System (HCBS) over a length of 98 km and two corridors of Electric Trolley Bus System (ETBS) over a distance of 32 km by April 2007.

Supreme Court directions

The recommendations were accepted by the Supreme Court and on November 30, 2005, it passed directions for implementation of the HCBS in Delhi. However, the day the first 5.8 km section of the 19 km Ambedkar Nagar-ISBT Kashmere Gate section opened in 2008 it came in for severe criticism from well-heeled road users, read motorists, who could not fathom the logic behind a system which restricted and slowed down their movement.

Sparingly used pavements and cycle lanes taking up 4.5 metre space on one side and 3.3 metre bus lanes on the other made little sense to them, particularly so as all the other vehicles were bunched together in a couple of lanes over an average width of 7.5 metres and struggled for up to half an hour on an average to cross a single traffic signal at Chirag Dilli.

The rigid approach of the planners who did not leave adequate spaces for private vehicles only added to the chaos.

The Delhi Government also did little to assuage the feelings of those residing near the corridor by taking corrective action. “An underpass along the corridor on the lines of the one at Moolchand could have helped, but never thought of,” said Sachin Srivastava of Sadiq Nagar.

Some citizens then took the matter to court. They found support in the Central Road Research Institute which conducted a study at the instance of the Delhi High Court and noted: “No BRT option yields better benefits for this corridor with the given traffic conditions.”

However, Delhi Government counsel K.T.S. Tulsi charged that the CRRI report was “full of contradictions”. He said 70 per cent of BRT users were indeed moving faster and there was 32 per cent increase in bus ridership.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit declared that the BRT project was for the “common man” but was facing hurdles due to “vested interests”.

The High Court said “even if we were to accept the argument that with the implementation of BRT corridor some inconvenience is being caused to everybody, we have to keep in mind that planning is always long-term and the fruits of the labour and sweat invested today may not be available in immediate future”.

It also upheld the Government’s stand and noted that “there being no scope to expand the width of the existing roads and the population of Delhi continuously being on the rise,” there was “no escape from the fact that the citizens of Delhi have to, one day or the other, use the public transport.”

Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami said now the path has been paved for rapid expansion of the BRT scheme. He said the Government would, however, adopt a flexible approach in the new corridors to optimally use the space for all categories of road users, including private vehicles and cyclists. “We would also be pressing more Delhi Transport Corporation and cluster scheme buses on these corridors to provide an incentive to commuters for using the public transport.”

Incidentally, the Delhi Government only earlier this week had approved preparation of detailed project reports (DPR) of seven corridors by the Public Works Department. These corridors will span 105 km.

Apart from this, the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS), which was given the task of maintaining the existing BRT corridor after it was constructed, has been given another seven projects. It has already prepared the DPR of one and the preliminary reports of the remaining six. These corridors span a distance of 124.40 km. In all, about 230 km of 14 new corridors are in the works.

Right direction

DIMTS Managing Director S. N. Sahai insists this is a move in the right direction. “The elasticity of roads is very limited. Nearly 25 per cent of Delhi area is already covered with roads. In London and other cities the area is about 15 per cent. The solution lies in bringing systems that move more people instead of more vehicles.”

The BRT system is also more cost effective than other mass transport systems like the Delhi Metro.

“One km of BRT costs Rs 15-20 crore which is about 20 times less than the metro which costs around Rs 300-400 crore per km. In Delhi, BRT is carrying around 12,400 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) as against about 25,000 pphpd in case of the metro. This shows its effectiveness.”

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