PIL seeks closure of Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway until safety measures implemented
The PIL has sought suspension of all traffic until essential wayside amenities and other safety measures are implemented to prevent further mishaps and save precious lives
A public interest litigation (PIL) has sought court orders to temporarily halt vehicular traffic on the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway which has witnessed a series of serious accidents claiming many lives.
The PIL was filed by one Anil Wadpalliwar on Thursday before the Bombay High Court's Nagpur Bench, through his lawyers Shreerang Bhandarkar, Bhupesh Patel and Manish Shukla.
A division bench comprising Justice Atul Chandrkar and Justice Vrushali Joshi has issued notices to top officials of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), Principal Secretaries of the state Road Transport and Highway Departments, the national and state Public Works Departments, and others concerned, to file their replies within four weeks.
The petitioner has cited the alarming number of accidents, including many fatalities, that have occurred on the 701-km long expressway, of which around 600-km is functional, since its inauguration in December 2022.
The PIL has sought suspension of all traffic until essential wayside amenities and other safety measures are implemented to prevent further mishaps and save precious lives.
Referring to the data from the State Highway Police, he said that the expressway has witnessed a total of 39 major accidents claiming 88 lives, plus there were 87 other accidents injuring 232 people, and 215 minor crashes hurting 428 persons.
The PIL has also urged for directions to order a comprehensive survey and a detailed report on the functioning of this access-controlled expressway, and the necessity of implementing solutions to mitigate the recurring accidents on it.
Alluding to a study by the VNIT and other media reports, the PIL has highlighted the aspect of ‘highway hypnosis’ - a phenomenon causing accidents due to long hours of monotonous driving conditions.
Earlier, a NGO, the Council for Protection of Rights President, Barristr Vinod Tiwari had raised the issue with the authorities on the need for safety precautions on the Samruddhi Mahamarg that has earned the sobriquet of ‘killer highway’.
After the July 1 Buldhana bus accident that claimed 27 lives, the state government came under severe criticism from the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi allies Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena (UBT), besides social groups and NGOs.
The MSRDC finally invited e-tenders for construction of wayside amenities with minimum investment of Rs 50-crore each with a five-year time period, which Tiwari said is "meaningless".
When fully completed, the 701-km long expressway, costing Rs 55,000-crore, will link Mumbai and Nagpur and slash the travel time from the current 16 hours to around 8 hours.
IANS had first highlighted the grave issues in detailed reports (May 4 & July 1), after which the government initiated some measures to reduce accidents.
However, Tiwari claims that the MSRDC’s latest response is ‘tokenism’ since it has given a five-year period for construction for the facilities - “till then, people should keep dying on the expressway”.
As per an official, the facilities that are envisioned are big and small hotels/restaurants, toilets, drinking water kiosks, clinics, quick response units, ATMs, shopping plazas, entertainment arcades, garages, puncture repairs, etc.
Published: 24 Aug 2023, 8:38 PM