Decongesting Shimla a distant dream?

Even after four years, all talks of decongesting the capital city by running monorails, constructing traffic tunnels and ropeways, remain a non-starter.

Decongesting Shimla a distant dream?

Vehicles moving slowly due to traffic congestion in Shimla. Photos: Amit Kanwar

vinaymishra188@gmail.com

Kuldeep Chauhan

Even after four years, all talks of decongesting the capital city by running monorails, constructing traffic tunnels and ropeways, remain a non-starter.

These projects under comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) have failed to see the light of day. On the other hand, traffic chaos in the city is only becoming worse, as the traffic flow continues to increase in the city.

The city has over 1.38 lakh vehicles that bring the public movement on roads to a grinding halt not only during peak hours, but during the entire day. Over 3,000 to 5,000 tourist vehicles that move in the city during the peak summer time add to the traffic congestion on the narrow Circular Road, which remains the main traffic bottleneck in the city.

The PWD has widened some stretches on the Cart Road, but taxi operators and others use these spaces to park vehicles right under the nose of the district administration, only to make things worse.

To focus on traffic tunnels, ropeways only

Since funding CMP at one go is not possible, the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) has narrowed down the Rs 6,000 crore comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) for the construction of traffic tunnels and ropeways only leaving aside monorails in its bid to decongest the capital city. The Rs 6,000 crore CMP was prepared by private consultants of the Urban Mass Transport (UMT) for Shimla city. Under this CMP, SMC and the state Transport Department proposed the construction of three ropeways, two traffic tunnels and widening of pedestrian paths to the World Bank for funding about four years ago. The government had sent the proposal to the Ministry of Economic Affairs for approval.

SMC had zeroed in on this CMP, considering that about 45 per cent people travel in public transport on city roads, 48 per cent use pedestrian paths, while only 7 per cent use their private vehicles to move in the city every day as per the rough survey of the city. The SMC had given a presentation on the draft proposal on the CMP to the World Bank team. But funding CMP in one go to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore remained a remote possibility. Thus, the SMC zeroed in on top priorities and identified ropeways, traffic tunnels and widening of pedestrian paths under the CMP for the city about four years ago.

Four years down the line, two main traffic tunnels — 1,100 m Lift-Himfed petrol station and the 600 m Lift-Rivoli tunnel remain a non-starter. Also, nothing much happened on the proposed ropeways between Tuttikandi and Jodha Niwas and Tara Devi and ISBT. SMC got in principal approval for the Tuttikandi-Jodha Niwas ropeway, which is being constructed by a private company.

Under CMP, the corporation has also mooted traffic tunnels at Dhalli and Boileauganj and ropeways for Tara Devi-Kamna Devi-Summer Hill would be taken up in the next phase. SMC also proposed the widening of pedestrian paths along the Cart Road and other traffic bottlenecks on other roads in the city. A three-member technical team from the World Bank inspected traffic chaos on the Cart Road. The team inspected the state-run HRTC bus service public transport system and inspected the RTO office as to how its Saarthi and Vahan schemes function for common man.

The team got first-hand experience of the sluggish pace of public transport in the city, chaos at HRTC headquarters and the bus stand. The team sought to widen the road network, construct traffic tunnels and alternative mode of transport in the city.

Transport officials said they would submit the detailed project report in consultation with other bodies and departments to the World Bank for funding projects. But nothing much had happened so far, as there was no progress on DPRs, they said.


‘DPRs are being prepared’

SMC has got in-principal approval for the Tuttikandi-Lift-Jodha Niwas ropeway and DPRs are being prepared for several projects. The works on widening and contraction of the pedestrian paths on the roads is on. The widened spaces are yellow marked for the public for parking.

Kusum Sadret, Shimla Mayor

‘BJP-led MC doing little to take CMP forward’

We proposed and passed the comprehensive city mobility plan during our time in 2014-15. Total proposal was around Rs 6,000 crore. It includes ropeways to connect one part of the city with others, then three tunnels, pathways and to make affordable public transportation available to citizens. The proposal for tunnels between Lakkar Bazaar and Lift and Lift to Chhota Shimla with the estimate of Rs 1,300 crore was in-principal agreed by the World Bank and the Department of Economic Affairs. Regular bus service in the city was proposed in this. But the present BJP-led MC and government have done little to take the CMP forward to give relief to residents.

Sanjay Chauhan, Former Mayor

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