Gateways to chaos

Gateways to chaos

Gateways to chaos

Negotiating a railway level-crossing is every motorist’s road to hell, whether the LC is manned or unmanned.

The huge traffic pile-ups during peak hours at these British-era crossings present an ugly medley of poor design, vehicular indiscipline, and risky behaviour. But without enough underbridges and overbridges, there is just no getting away from these gateways to chaos.

Take the case of the LC across the Bangalore-Mysore railway track in Bapujinagar. Residents in the vicinity are witness to an unending stream of train-hit accidents, and fatalities caused by people crossing haphazardly to avoid the LCs’ jam-packed approach roads. The death of a woman two weeks ago at this spot was the latest. She was in a hurry to cut across the track, and lost sight of the fast approaching train in the process.

Peak-hour traffic between 8.30 am and 10.30 am and from 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm triggers a huge rush at the railway gate. It is tough, tiring work for the railway security personnel and the handful of traffic policemen deployed at the spot.

They try their best to maintain a semblance of order. The section has two railway tracks running in parallel. Morning hours get really busy with trains such as the Thirupati Express, Rajya Rani Express, Push Pull Passenger train, and Thoothukudi Express passing through the area on their way to and from Mysore and Bangalore. Everytime a train approaches, the gates close, the traffic piles up and sparks more headaches for the police, commuters and pedestrians.

Besides the Bapujinagar (Ward no 134) residents, people from Hampinagar (Ward No 133) who stay on the other end of the railway line also use the LC. But even though the railway gate is operational, some reckless motorists don’t see it as an obstacle. Turning a blind eye to safety and warnings from the gatemen, these daredevil riders could be seen making their way to the other side, by bending below the boom gate.

"There are three to five schools on the side of Hampinagar and in Bapujinagar. It is perilous, as children who want to rush to schools cross the tracks in a haphazard way. They do not wait for the railway gate to open. Instead, they prefer passing the unmanned railway crossing at random points. Despite approaching the MLA, corporators of the two wards, no action has been initiated to curb the problem," laments a resident of RPC Layout, Ugraiah D.  

But the railways could not be blamed for the mess. Eight months ago, the railways had built an underpass near the Chowdappa Layout, 11th Cross, barely 200 metres away from the Bapujinagar railway track. This was done with an intention to ease the traffic woes and divert the vehicular flow at the railway line.

However, the underpass is now in disuse. Reason: the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) did not take steps to construct the approach road from Chowdappa Layout to Hampinagar Road (Ward No 133).  

A railway official had this to say, but on condition of anonymity: “The Palike is delaying due to land acquisition problems. While it is the Palike’s responsibility to build the approach road, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) should ideally take up the task of demolishing the illegal houses dotting in and around the boundary of railway line. To get the land, demolish the required houses and carry out other related works, it will take another two years, I guess.” 

As a final resort, residents of both Bapujinagar and Hampinagar are now planning to soon file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the court, questioning the delay in laying the approach road.

Kaggadasapura mess

At Kaggadasapura, the LC stands unscientifically on the U-turn of a road across the Salem railway line. Peak hours couldn’t get messier, with a maddening medley of office-goers, school students, employees of the nearby Defence Resea­rch and Development Organisation trying to negotiate the crossing. Two traffic police constables, three volunteers and two railway gatekeepers struggle to manage the huge number of vehicles.

The approach roads are too narrow, and the LC being on a curve makes it even more tougher. BMTC buses find the width of the LC too narrow. Drivers struggle to get the turning radius. Any mistake could prove disastrous. For, a breakdown is the last the railways would want at the crossing. “Every 15 minutes, there is a train passing through this section. Due to the traffic pile-up most schoolchildren get late. This is the only connecting link for residents of hundreds of apartments that have come up in the surrounding localities,” says KP Peter, a plywood trader from the area.

The residents and frequent commuters had complained repeatedly to both the civic authorities and their local MLAs. But the promised road overbridge never materialised. Enquiries reveal that the bridge is still at the proposal stage. Railway officials say the BBMP is yet to furnish them the design and alignment of the approach roads. The railways would build the section above the tracks, since the Palike lacks the necessary technical expertise.

But the residents see no hope. They have to plan their trips much in advance so they don’t get caught in the jam. One of them, Dinesh, a sofware engineer had come unprepapred and had to pay the price. “I took this route to drop my son to school. We are now stuck in the traffic for the last 45 minutes,” he says, as his car waits in a long line of vehicles for the railway gate to open.