Does Ring Road offer a four-lane highway experience?

Vehicles pile up at Vandiyur toll plaza on the Ring Road in Madura, as it has only five toll booths.

Vehicles pile up at Vandiyur toll plaza on the Ring Road in Madura, as it has only five toll booths.   | Photo Credit: G_Moorthy

The road gives its users a better riding or driving experience when compared to the old two-way road.

All is not well with the four-way Ring Road connecting Uthangudi with Kappalur. It was with much hype that the State government announced widening of the 27.2-kilometre-long Inner Ring Road to a four-lane highway with median.

While it was boasted that the quality of the road would be on a par with the four-lanes laid by the National Highways Authority of India, the widened road has left much to be desired.

Even before Tamil Nadu Road Infrastructure Development Corporation (TNRIDC), an arm of the State Highways, could complete the construction of a road overbridge at Kappalur, the government commissioned three toll plazas and started collecting toll on November 22.

The road gives its users a better riding or driving experience when compared to the old two-way road. But, toll collection has started revealing the otherwise poor state of the facilities on the road.

Bus crew complain that the limited number of toll booths are detaining their vehicles for long. As many bus crew pick quarrels at the toll plazas, police have been deployed at the toll plazas established at Vandiyur, Chintamani and Valayankulam.

The Ring Road has got only five toll booths at the Vandiyur toll plaza. Besides, the authorities had inaugurated the toll plazas without FASTag facility. “This has led to piling of vehicles. Besides, this toll plaza does not have an exclusive passage for emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire tenders,” a policeman posted at the plaza said.

A TNSTC driver said vehicles were detained for a total of 20 minutes at the three toll plazas during peak hours. “If we speed up our vehicles to compensate the time lost, the roads are going to become very dangerous,” he added. He pointed out that the NHAI had four plus four toll booths at their plazas.

No emergency paths

Since Madurai is a major health care hub for southern districts and accident victims with grievous injuries are invariably rushed to city hospitals, lack of emergency pathway for ambulances is a blot on the project. Even VIPs with police escort could not have a free passage if vehicles pile up at the toll booths.

Drivers of vehicles with FASTag facilities are frowning upon lack of this facility that gives them a smooth and quick passage.

“Even those vehicles exempted from paying toll or those vehicles that had paid toll at other plazas could not pass through any of these toll plazas without having to wait in long queues,” one of them complained. Even two-wheelers have to wait behind vehicles as there is no dedicated space for them to bypass the toll plaza,” one of them said.

Why in city limits?

C. Sathaiah, president of Lorry Owners’ Association, Madurai, has a list of drawbacks in the road. “We are told that toll plazas should be located 15 km outside city limits. But, two of these toll plazas are within the city. Besides, the toll is higher considering the facilities provided for road users,” he said.

He complained that the State Highways had not provided any lorry bay for the drivers to rest. There was no proper toilet facility. “Even though the authorities could show the toilets provided for toll plaza employees as meant for public, where is the space to park vehicles?,” he asked.

The limited toilet facility was not enough for a bus-load of tourists.

Mr. Sathaiah wondered how could the government collect toll on the widened road for 27 km, when it had given up such a plan on the similar project on Madurai-Theni Highway. The association was considering taking a legal recourse over the issue, he said.

Safety compromised?

The TNSTC driver pointed at the lack of safety features. The speed of the vehicles on the road had increased after its widening. But, at least five road crossings or junctions had not been provided with flyovers to ensure safety of the vehicle users, unlike NHAI projects, he said.

Ramanathapuram Road junction, Chintamani junction, Echaneri junction, Airport Road junction, Thoothukudi Highway junction witnessed heavy traffic, he said.

A TNRIDC official said efforts were on to provide FASTag facility within two weeks.

Stating that the two plazas at Chintamani and Valayankulam had three plus three booths and only the Vandiyur plaza had got three plus two booths, he said issues relating to land acquisition had led to lack of emergency way. “Talks with landowners are on and in all probability five plus five toll booths would be provided at all the three plazas by December-end. Meanwhile, works to provide temporary emergency exits are on at Chintamani and Valayankulam plazas,” he added.

On the complaint that the toll was high, the official said the toll had been fixed based on the number of culverts, bridges and the ROBs. Other facilities such as ambulance, recovery vehicles, crane and highway patrol were provided, he added.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 4:31:57 AM |

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