Delay in executing the Ennore-Manali Road Improvement Project makes situation significantly worse

North Chennai is notorious for traffic pile-ups, but of late the locality has become a virtual death trap. On April 27, traffic police constable Sandana Mariappan was mowed down by a container truck near Sathangadu. Since January 1, a total of 26 fatalities have been reported in the area, including his, all caused by heavy vehicles.

Causes range from underage truck drivers who tend to be rash on the roads, to the lack of adequate lighting, to the larger issue of chaotic traffic on the roads leading to the Chennai Port. The delay in executing the Ennore-Manali Road Improvement Project (EMRIP) has only made the situation worse.

Hundreds of container trucks wait along the northern portion of Inner Ring Road (IRR), Manali Oil Refinery Road (MORR) or Manali High Road, Tiruvottiyur-Ponneri-Panchetty Road and the Ennore Expressway, blocking traffic for hours together, preventing free movement of vehicles. M.K. Ramanan, a resident of Tiruvottiyur says: “At times truck drivers pay money to cops to jump the queue. Sometimes, when the queue is jumped without proper regulation, accidents happen. Two-wheelers get hit the most.”

Three accidents were reported last Thursday near Manali junction. One accident on IRR involved a loaded container lorry and another was due to loose soil that dragged an empty container lorry. The third one was near Madras Fertilisers Ltd.

With a number of drivers being underage and several of them sleep-deprived, they tend to drive dangerously fast, putting other motorists' life at great risk, note sources in the locality.

Drivers cite inadequate parking space as another problem. They say that if the Tiruvottiyur container parking yard gets a cement concrete topping, at least 40 per cent of empty containers can be parked there. Similarly, import vehicles could be allowed between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Poonamallee High Road, they suggest. All warehouses must be permitted to verify seals on containers that would help reduce traffic. Only vehicles whose ships have berthed should get entry passes to the port. Handling of containers inside the port must also be speeded up. It is the Chennai Port that earns revenue from the containers its has to take a call, they say.

In the last 12 years that the Chennai Port has been operating its container terminal, E. Kalimuthu, a container truck driver has never been able to enter the port without a wait. “We have struck work 48 times seeking better management of containers at warehouses, at the gate by the CISF and Customs and by the port authorities. All we have had are empty promises from the chairman at each point of time,” he said bitterly.

The port handles around 3,500 containers daily, as well as trailers – both empty and carrying containers. “We are stuck on the roads. It takes us a minimum of 24 to 72 hours to off-load the export goods we carry into the port. There is no water, food, toilets or rest rooms on the way,” said P. Selvam, another driver.

Residents' speak

Drivers apart, residents of north Chennai too, have a raw deal due to this extraordinary pile up that has almost become part of everyday routine in the area. “We get caught every day. Autorickshaws refuse to ply on these roads due to the jams that last for four hours at the least,” says Rajkumar, a resident of Manali New Town talking about a pile up on MORR, which along with Ennore Expressway, takes the bulk of the jams. Two days ago, a family that landed at the airport from Dubai spent eight hours stuck at MFL junction.

Recently, when R. Rajamohan, a member of the National Shipping Board, conducted a quick survey of EMRIP, he witnessed a pile-up from Madhavaram junction, which is about 30 km from the Chennai Port Trust main gate. “It has been like this for the past one week due to traffic diversions at various places, ongoing work on the Tirvottiyur-Ponneri-Panchetty Road and couple of accidents on the roads leading to Ennore and Chennai Port,” says Ennore Port Ltd Chairman-cum-Managing Director S. Velumani.

Mr. Rajamohan visited Visakhapatnam, Paradip, Cochin and Chennai ports to learn about bottlenecks that hampered their growth. He will submit details to the National Shipping Board at its board meeting in Mumbai on May 28.

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