Thousands of commuters, mostly residents of Mulavukadu, Kadamakkudy and Cheranellore panchayats who use the Container Road, are at the mercy of the elements because there are no bus shelters or lighting on the road, which is seeing steady increase in passenger traffic.
The 17-km Container Road (National Highway 47C) links NH 47 at Kalamassery with the International Container Transhipment Terminal on Vallarpadam Island and was commissioned ahead of the inauguration of the container terminal in February 2011.
The road is incomplete and work continues on several stretches of the road, including on a damaged bridge near Moolampilly. A senior official said National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) expected to fully commission the four-lane road, involving an expenditure of over Rs. 900 crore, in April 2014.
Till then pedestrians and bus passengers have to put up with the lack of shelters and lighting. School children, women and men stand in the open, braving rain and the sun.
NHAI had refused permission to the panchayats to put up bus shelters or erect high-mast lights along the road, claimed president of the Mulavukadu panchayat K. K. Dinakaran. His counterparts in Kadamakkudy and Cheranellore panchayats said that people using the road had a harrowing time because of the lack of shelters and lighting.
In what continues to be islands of underdevelopment close to the buzzing business capital of the State, people in Mulavukadu, Kadamakkudy and Cheranelloor panchayats bear the brunt of the problem. The Container Road has turned out to be the land access for them to the outside world despite the fact that the road was built primarily to provide a link to the ICTT for container lorries coming from north of the city without entering Kochi.
Bhasi Lal, a carpenter from Mulavukadu, said he packed a spare dress for his school-going son because if it rained the boy would get drenched. Umbrellas were of little help because of the heavy winds that sweeps in from Vembanad Lake.
Dileep Kumar Sahu, who works with the Kochi Metro project and stays at the north end of Mulavukadu, said the situation was quite bad for bus passengers like him, waiting in the open for their transport vehicles.
Mr. Dinakaran said the Mulavukadu panchayat authority now planned to erect high mast lights below the Container Road level at the Bolghatty, Mulavukadu North and Vallarpadam Junctions. He said that panchayat was likely to get a service road between Kattathu and Bolghatty Junction, a distance of about 3.5 km, which would make life easier for the residents of the panchayat who use the Container Road.
President of Kadamakkudy panchayat Valsa Francis said that the panchayat has been in touch with NHAI authorities regarding the problems facing passengers using the Container Road. Her counterpart in Cheranellore K.K. Suresh Babu said several problems, including the lack of signal lights, had been brought to the notice of the NHAI officials.
A small-time businessman Abdul Kareem, from Mulavukadu, complains that insufficient passenger buses on the route was a big problem. There was just one KSRTC bus that starts its service from the north end of Mulavukadu, he said.
While the islanders have their share of problems, local drivers near Eloor complain that parking of lorries on both sides of the road near Eloor junction posed a major obstacle.