Minister rues attempt to thwart National Highway development

Staff Reporter

Traders and others are resisting the move to widen NHs

Says faulty roads major cause of road accidents

‘Put technology to good use to build safe roads'

KOCHI: The opposition from a few people to develop National Highways passing through Kerala as 60-metre wide stretches is a cruelty to future generations, Minister for Transport Jose Thettayil has said.

A section of traders and others are resisting government moves to widen busy NHs to at least 45 m (down from the 60 m as mandated under NH rules) and make them four-lane ones.

Speaking after inaugurating the central zone conference of the Kerala PWD Graduate Engineers' Association here on Saturday, Mr. Thettayil said the root cause of most road accidents was faulty road engineering. “Roads must be planned with a broad and futuristic vision in mind. A minor oversight by a civil engineer while supervising road works would cause fatal accidents on roads,” he said.

Elaborating on the difficulties that commuters face and accidents that occur because of narrow and ill-maintained roads, he urged PWD engineers and their peers to make innovative use of available technology to build durable, user-friendly and safe roads.

Engineers of the PWD must be able to overcome undue pressure from politicians and contractors, and build quality roads. They must convince decision-makers of the need to invest more in road construction and resurfacing, so that the State had durable roads.

Piecemeal measures like carrying out patchworks to cover potholes would not do. Commuters would then have to endure a bumpy ride. Care had to be taken while building bridges too. Many bridges in the State were narrow and would not last their lifespan because of construction defects, he said.

Premium buses

Mr. Thettayil said that six more Volvo low-floor buses would soon join the fleet of KSRTC-operated premium buses in Kochi.

“They would be routed through the city hub, so that they get more passenger patronage. People must give up cars and two-wheelers and shift to comfortable and affordable public transport, to reduce chaos on the road,” he said.

In his presidential address, Kerala PWD Graduate Engineers' Association president P.R. Jayaprakash said that it was high time the NHs in the State were widened into four-lane and the State highways upgraded to NH standards.

“The State would also need a north-south expressway in another five years because of the steep increase in number of vehicles. Sadly, our concept of development is opposed to widening roads. Often, politicians lead protests against road-widening works. Even the World Bank withdrew from phase two of KSTP projects because of the delay in acquiring land for road development. One way to avoid delays is to properly compensate people who surrender their land,” he said.

He called upon district-level Road Safety Councils to remove unscientific speed-breakers that caused accidents.

In his welcome speech, T. Venugopalan, district president of the Association, said there were over 7 lakh unused buildings in the State, most of them houses. “The proliferation of too many buildings has hastened global warming,” he said.

Later, C. Ravindranath, MLA, led a seminar on global warming.

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