Lucknow-Agra Expressway turns killer expressway

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The much-talked-about Lucknow-Agra Expressway is turning into a killer expressway. According to the data made available by the UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), between August 2017 and March 2018, there have been 858 accidents causing 100 deaths.

Between April 2018 and December 2018, 1,113 accidents claimed 91 lives.

The bus accident on Monday which claimed 29 lives is just another addition to the list.

Agra Development Foundation (ADF) Secretary K.C. Jain had posted an RTI query and the reply confirmed that an abnormally high number of accidents and casualties are taking place on the expressway.

According to the response to the RTI query, in the past nine months, 100 persons have died in 853 accidents that have taken place on the expressway.

Reports of UP State Roadways Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) drivers — the bus that crashed down on Monday belonged to UPSRTC — being fatigued and overworked have been doing the rounds and are cited as the cause of Monday’s accident.

Drivers are required not to drive beyond 14 hours a day but most of them go up to 18 hours per day since it brings in financial incentives.

Principal Secretary (Transport), Aradhana Shukla, while explaining the situation, said, “In the case of Monday’s accident, the driver was well rested since he had come after a three-day leave. He was a night long-distance driver and did not have a single accident to his credit. The bus was new and in good condition. It was a pure accident and nothing else.”

She said that the CCTV footage at a toll plaza showed that the driver had stopped and even had a conversation with the staff there barely minutes before the accident.

Other reports suggested that the driver had started dozing off and some passengers had even advised him to wash his face.

The Principal Secretary also said that most drivers show keenness to drive beyond the stipulated hours because it brings them additional money.

She further said that the department will now take sterner steps to check such incidents in future.

A senior official, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said that the vehicles moving at a high speed on the expressway was one of the major reasons for the mishaps.

The 302 km expressway still does not have any infrastructural support including petrol pumps, vehicle repair shops, medical facilities and restrooms. Ambulances are also not available on the expressway in case of emergency.

The speed limit on the expressway is 120 km per hour, but most vehicle race beyond the speed limit, causing fatal accidents.

The state government has recently announced that those covering the 302 km stretch from Lucknow toll plaza to Agra in less than three hours will have to pay a fine for speeding.

Avanish Kumar Awasthi, Chief Executive Officer, Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), said, “If any vehicle is found to have covered the distance between Agra and Lucknow or vice versa in less than three hours, it will be fined and an e-challan will be sent to the registered address of the vehicle owner.”

He said that high-tech equipment has been installed at toll plazas in order to capture images of vehicles for data analysis reports. The details are then sent to the SP (Traffic) of Agra and Lucknow districts for issuance of e-challans.

The Lucknow-Agra expressway, built at a cost of Rs 15,000 crore, has six lanes which can be extended to eight lanes. There are four railway over bridges, 13 bridges, 57 small bridges, 74 underpass, 148 pedestrian underpass, and nine flyovers along the way.

The expressway was completed in a record time of 23 months and over one crore vehicles are expected to use it in one year.

The expressway is built across 10 districts and 3500 hectares of land. The districts through which the expressway passes are Lucknow, Hardoi, Unnao, Kanpur, Kannauj, Auraiyya, Etawah, Mainpuri, Ferozabad and Shikohabad.