1.75 crore vehicles crowd Tamil Nadu roads

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In a little less than two decades, Tamil Nadu’s vehicle population has increased by 730%.

With several thousand vehicles being added per day, the number of vehicles in the state is inching towards 1.75 crore. Chennai city is groaning under the burden of about 37 lakh vehicles, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the total vehicles in the state.

The number of vehicles has been particularly growing over the past couple of years and crossed a whopping 1.58 crore in August 2012. At the same time, the number of vehicles in Chennai has crossed 36.75 lakhs, adding stress to the already congested roads.

These startling facts also highlight the minimal increase in public transport network over the years, which are forcing the general public to go in for private vehicles.

Of the 1.58 crore vehicles in the state as on Aug.1, 2012, as many as 1.30 crore are two wheelers, accounting for a whopping 85 percent. The number was just 1.26 crore last April. In Chennai, two-wheeler population (1,30,38,498) accounts for 78 percent, while cars are just 14 percent).However, simultaneously, the registration of new cars has also kept pace with two wheelers.

The number of cars in the state, which was 2.46 lakhs in 1993 has escalated to 4.83 lakh in 2002 and has shot up to 13.83 lakh (13.41 lakh in April) registering over 460-percentage growth in two decades.

According an urban planner, the percentage of trips by bus per day in the city was 42 in 1970, which has considerably decreased to 25 in 2010 while two wheeler trips increased to 27 from 2 during the corresponding period, besides cars trips that have increased from 3 to 6.5 is a clear sign of decreasing patronage of public transportation.

Rain, repair works add to woes

Till some time ago, overspeeding was the main reason for road accidents in the city. Now the deteriorating road conditions, especially with roads being constantly dug up for various reasons, especially metro rail work, have become a prime factor for the mishaps.

Coupled with this is the increase in the number of vehicles in the city and the shrinking road space as well as the often non-existent space for pedestrians that has put safety of commuters at risk.

Motorists, especially two-wheeler riders, face an added burden with the bumpy and snail-paced movement of traffic resulting in an alarming increase in chronic backache among commuters.

Roads have not been widened in the past 10 years, but vehicle density has increased several fold, adding to the traffic burden, point out sources in the traffic department, who say that road safety has become a matter of prime concern.

“The metro rail has just added to our woes as all over the city traffic has been diverted, resulting in motorists staying on the road for longer. Moreover, several bottlenecks have also cropped up, so the journeys have become doubly tiresome,” laments B. Dinesh Kumar, a graphic designer from Nungambakkam.

The Institute of Financial Management Research says that on an average 1,780 vehicles are being added to Chennai roads every day without a corresponding increase in motorable road space. The increase in number of vehicles adds further pressure on the traffic and is seen as an increasing cause of accidents and mental trauma.

“In the narrow roads, the vehicles literally crawl during the peak hours and the riders suffer from acute backache because of this. In one day we get at least four to five patients who have backache because of long hours of riding two-wheelers. Sitting in an erect position without relaxing your muscles and applying pressure while riding a bike takes a toll on the spine,” warns physiotherapist Anantharaman who runs a private clinic in Mylapore.

The doctor also advises two-wheeler riders to exercise regularly n riding and using public transport system to avoid chronic back problems.

More road accidents, but less fatalities

Road mishaps in the city have come down over the last eight months, despite the rapid increase in vehicular population and the shrinking road space.

There has been a decrease in the number of fatal accidents on the city’s roads in the last eight months, compared with the same period of the previous year. In the first eight months of 2011, 1,005 people lost their lives in road accidents in the city, with the figure touching 1,456 in the whole year.

This year, there have been only 962 fatalities in road mishaps till August 31, according to police records.

The total number of road accidents in he city has also come down from 6,310 to 5,599 during the same period.

Police officials are unable to pinpoint the reason behind the reduction in the number of road mishaps in the city but are happy that the number of fatalities have come down. “This maybe because there is no scope for speeding in the city as a result of the heavy density of vehicles,” quipped an official.

However, police personnel are concerned about the worrying trend in accidents involving two wheelers. Out of 446 two-wheeler riders who lost their lives in accidents in the city during the first eight months of this year, 436 of them — accounting for 97.75 per cent — were not wearing helmets.

Officials lock horns over funds

There is no end in sight to the ordeal faced by motorists on the Madras Tiruvallur High (MTH) Road with the state highways department and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) passing the buck to each other over funding repair work.

This has affected lakhs of people living in the western part of city, particularly Ambattur, Avadi, Pattabiram and Annanur. The people want the state government to carry out road repairing work before the onset of the northeast monsoon.

“The poor road condition has made life miserable for motorists. If they do not repair roads, the government should at least ensure that vehicles can move smoothly on it,” said S. Nandagopal, who works in a BPO in Ambattur.

NHAI has asked TN highways department to take over maintenance of the 23 km Padi-Thiruninravur stretch of MTH Road after dropping the proposal to widen it. No major maintenance work had been carried out on the road since in 2005 when it was handed over by the state highways department to the NHAI for development under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP).

A senior official of the department said that it had not accepted the NHAI request to take over MTH road for maintenance. “We have asked NHAI to pay Rs 22 crore for repairing the road. In all these years, NHAI had not carried out any major repair work. We will take over the road only if they pay for repair work or hand it over in good condition,” an official said.

NHAI has not replied to the letter yet, the official said.

NHAI dropped the proposal to widen the road after facing stiff resistance from traders over land acquisition. The proposal was to widen the MTH road into a four-lane highway with a service road on either side.

“NHAI had even proposed an elevated toll road to avoid major land acquisition, that wasn’t accepted by traders. Hence, proposal was dropped,” explained a highways official.

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