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Calcutta 1981

 | 
Jean Racine

Session III. A. Tackling the Crisis

Addendum I. On the Crisis of Transporta

The Statesman

Texte intégral

  • a This addendum presents the main extracts of an anonymous report published in The Statesman, 5 Febru (...)

1Statistics give some idea of the magnitude of the problem. But to those who have to live with the pollution, the noise, the continuous and frustrating struggle to get from one point to another, and also to those who have to manage the orderly movement of the mass of people, statistics have long ceased to have any meaning, Calcutta can today boast of being the only city of its size in the world which survives from day to day...

2There are several reasons for the chaotic traffic conditions. To begin with, more than 90 per cent of the population is totally dependent on the public transport System. Traffic planners admit that the public transport System is not adequate to meet the heavy, and growing, demand on it. Nor do they expect any improvement in the next decade or so.

  • b The metro made in fact its commercial maiden run on 24th October 1984, on the section Esplanade-Bho (...)

3Nearly 1,500 private buses, 700 State Transport buses, 500 mini-buses, 5,000 taxis, 36,000 rickshaws and between 300 and 350 trams are deployed daily. Excluding taxis and rickshaws, the rest of the system is estimated to make 6.5 million transit trips —a transit trip being a journey from point A to point B. By 1983, when the underground railway is expected to operate between Tollygunge and Esplanade and Dum Dum and Shyambazarb the entire System will be faced with a demand of nearly nine million transit trips— a prospect that frightens the most optimistic of city planners. The underground railway will make only 1.6 million transit trips, and there is little or no prospect of the other transport Systems increasing their capacities. The reason is simple: the city's streets cannot be widened any further except for small Stretches, and the number and type of vehicles which use them are constantly increasing...

4It has been suggested that to save the city from total collapse, it may be advisable to shift certain business and government establishments to the adjoining suburbs. This is one of the ideas that deserve serious consideration. For example, a number of government departments like Forestry, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Education and Fisheries could easily be located in the fast growing suburb of Salt Lake. The point often made is that many government functions can be conducted with greater efficiency if the departments concerned were located out of the core area. Only 6 per cent of the 104 Km2 that go to make up the core area is available for roads. In practice, the 6 per cent figure is reduced to 4 per cent when one considers the encroachments on the roads —garbage dumps, hawkers, illegal parking, dumping of construction material and pavement markets.

5The worst sufferer is the pedestrian who denied the use of pavements, risks life and limb by walking on the main road. During rush hours, this leads to bigger and bigger traffic jams with both pedestrians and vehicular traffic involved in a grim struggle for right of way.

6Planners are also considering the idea of stopping all heavy traffic —namely long-distance trucks— from entering the city. The CMDA had in fact submitted a plan to set up a "trucking and trading township" at Kona, near Howarh, some years ago, and the idea was to stop trucks on the other side of the river and set up a Wholesale trading centre there. This could go a long way in relieving the pressure on the city.

  • c The second is Vivekananda Bridge, bridge for railway and road traffic in the northern subrubs of Ca (...)

7The Howrah Bridge, one of the two bridges that span the Hooghlyc, is perhaps the most heavily punished in the world. Delay in the work on the second Hooghly Bridge has aggravated the traffic problem. Until it is built, all traffic passing through Calcutta to points west and north will continue to use the two bridges and the main arterial roads that feed them and since these roads pass through the heart of the city, incoming and outgoing trucks further clog up the already choked road System.

8Some of the remedial measures being worked on may in the next decade or so become obsolete. The problem of 100 per cent overcrowding, according to planners, is expected to continue. What is required, they say, i complete dispersal of economic and allied activity from the core area. The major thrust of planning so far has been to "decongest" the core of Calcutta. But drastic traffic engineering, which envisages one-way streets, no driving zones and strict implementation of traffic regulations, is not going to solve the problem. The real solution may therefore lie in Investments in a circular railway, reserved tracks for trams and a strictly enforced graded System where different kinds of vehicles stick to nominated lanes.

Plate 20: THE PROBLEM OF TRANSPORT

Plate 20: THE PROBLEM OF TRANSPORT

1. Crowded public transports: suburban trains in Sealdah during rush hours.

2. And many bottlenecks. A traffic jam in front of Sealdah Station: buses, tramways, lorries, cars, jeeps, carts, rickshaws and pedestrians struggle for a way through in a road on which hawkers encroach constantly. The new flyover (see plate 17) has improved the situation.

Fig. 1.1. Traffic flow in Calcutta: problems and improvements

9The studies conducted so far by the CMDA and other organizations have not however taken the human factor into account. Much of the chaos today could easily be controlled if people were educated on how to use the facilities available. Most drivers do not hesitate to violate traffic rules because they find it the only way to get moving. As regards the pedestrian, zebra crossings, traffic lights and police signals are for the birds. Designated points for bus stops on crowded Chowringhee for example, are rarely used because the long queues of the people waiting for the odd bus just cannot be bothered about such niceties.

10For his part, the rickshaw-puller has brought with him the mentality of his village or small town where the right of way is decided by who gets to the bridge first. The taxi driver, except for the old hands, is no different. Besides both of them know perfectly well how to deal with the police. On the other hand, the men entrusted with the job of managing the traffic can only do so much, and no more. It is easier for them to throw up their hands in despair and disappear for a cigarette break while the traffic mills around them in what is fast becoming eternal chaos.

Notes de fin

a This addendum presents the main extracts of an anonymous report published in The Statesman, 5 February 1979, under the title: "Stop this City, I want to get off (J.R.).

b The metro made in fact its commercial maiden run on 24th October 1984, on the section Esplanade-Bhowanipore: a four-km stretch (J.R.).

c The second is Vivekananda Bridge, bridge for railway and road traffic in the northern subrubs of Calcutta. What is called the Second Howrah Bridge (i.e., the second bridge linking Calcutta city with Howrah) will actually become the third bridge of the Calcutta Metropolitan District core. At the north of the CMD, another bridge, the Hoogly-Naihati bridge supports a railtrack but no road. Further north, the construction of the Kalyani-Bansberia bridge started in 1981. For the time being, the 80 kms-long metropolis has only three bridges and may have only five at the end of the decade. This is a major constraint to transportation and many people have to rely upon the ferries for Crossing the river (J.R.).

Table des illustrations

Titre Plate 20: THE PROBLEM OF TRANSPORT
Légende 1. Crowded public transports: suburban trains in Sealdah during rush hours.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/5341/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Légende 2. And many bottlenecks. A traffic jam in front of Sealdah Station: buses, tramways, lorries, cars, jeeps, carts, rickshaws and pedestrians struggle for a way through in a road on which hawkers encroach constantly. The new flyover (see plate 17) has improved the situation.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/5341/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 260k
Légende Fig. 1.1. Traffic flow in Calcutta: problems and improvements
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/5341/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 419k

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