The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is clueless about repairing potholed portions of the Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass, even as traffic snarls worsen number of accidents rise.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is clueless about repairing potholed portions of the Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass, even as traffic snarls worsen number of accidents rise.

Motorists have taken the agency to task for its apathy and have sought compensation for damaged vehicles and accidents. “The NHAI must be arraigned as accused in accident cases. In spite of collecting a hefty toll it’s dodging the duty of keeping the bypass in good condition. The non-pliable stretch has made toll collection meaningless,” said president of Ernakulam District Residents Associations’ Apex Council (EDRAAC) P. Rangadasa Prabhu.

Each pothole on the stretch is holding up traffic for at least a minute. “Absence of street lights at most places makes spotting potholes tough. The maintenance and fuel expense of vehicles using the bypass has increased.”

The NHAI did not repair damaged portions even when it did not rain on Saturday and Sunday. Annoyed at traffic hold-ups and accidents, youth activists blocked the bypass on Sunday.

A senior official of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the agency NHAI is answerable to, said the NHAI’s Kochi unit had not sought funds for roadworks. “Generally, the NHAI maintains roads and bridges using its own funds. But we grant funds in case of emergency,” he said.

The 16-km-long NH Bypass was built to improve connectivity, and a smooth track for regional and inter-district vehicles. NHAI’s laxity had made it one of the slowest, ill-maintained and accident-prone highways in the country, he said. The stretch was resurfaced and Vyttila-Aroor stretch widened into four lanes by CVCC-RDS, a joint venture firm. Sources in CVCC said it finished the work in 2010, maintained the stretch till 2011.

Local unit blamed

An official associated with the project blamed the NHAI’s Kochi unit for the dilapidation of the carriageway, medians and drains. “The Vallarpadam-Kalamassery Road (NH 47-C) too is in a sorry state. The NHAI’s Kochi project unit has failed to maintain both the highways.”

“The local office did not take remedial action though potholes developed on Kumbalam-Aroor bridge, Vyttila bridge and junctions months before the onset of monsoon.”

However, the NHAI tried to cover up its ineptitude. NHAI Kochi project director C.T. Abraham blamed the rain and bureaucratic hassles in obtaining funds from the agency’s head office for the sad state of affairs. “We had entered into a contract with BVSR Constructions for maintaining the NH and allied infrastructure for nine years. But the firm is yet to begin works.” Despite the claim, the agency has not invoked the penalty clause and forfeited the firm’s earnest money deposit. Neither has it taken steps to cancel the agreement and entrust the work to another firm.

Company’s version

Sources in BVSR Constructions said the firm was awaiting a loan for the project. Though the NHAI gets Rs.10.10 crore annually from the toll contractor, funds are not earmarked to resurface damaged and vulnerable portions of the highway.

Keywords: NHAIKochi roads

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