Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Putting Bangalore’s record straight

Putting Bangalore’s record straight

Ravi S JoshiFirst Published : 03 Aug 2009 08:00:21 AM ISTLast Updated : 03 Aug 2009 11:56:05 AM IST
BANGALORE: Reading the papers these days has me in splits.
After a couple of accidents, in quick succession, at an under-construction line of the Delhi Metro, questions are being raised – by newspapers — about the safety of the Bangalore Metro since it follows the same model.
It’s not that accidents during construction are anything new. London Metro has had to contend with it when a tunnel collapsed on the Heathrow high-speed line.
Similarly, a tunnel collapsed in Singapore during the construction for the MRT line, claiming four lives. During a press conference after the accidents, Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan had this to say: “The DMRC accident rate is still very low as compared to international standards as Singapore has 1.1 accidents per million man-hours, London Underground has 0.32 accidents and Delhi Metro Phase-II has 0.4 accidents.” That was reassuring.
But it’s the news reports that give me the laughs. Gammon India, the contractor handling the stretch where part of the elevated track came crashing down, is handling work for the Bangalore Metro as well. And this is the same company that did not follow standard operating procedure in Hyderabad thereby killing two persons when pre-cast blocks for a flyover collapsed in September 2007.
You don’t find that funny? Allow me to elaborate.
Grave as the situation may be, the Bangalore Metro follow- ups do not merit front page treatment. After all, we live in a city that needs a traffic cop to man traffic on a flyover. The authorities call it the Richmond Circle flyover.
I call it Edward Scissorhands.
Where else in the world have you seen a flyover where traffic has to move in to the right lane from the left and vice-versa? There is a flyover in Chennai where you have to take a very sharp left to avoid falling off the bridge, but even that doesn’t come close to what our engineers in Bangalore have built.
What do come close to the monstrosity in Chennai are our tragic boxes (the authorities call them magic boxes).
You must sample the one near Windsor Manor. The underpass gives you a sense of the proverbial “elephant passing through the eye of the needle”. And the moment you emerge out of it, you have to take a sharp right and floor the gas pedal on a crude cement surface that some like to call a “road”. Stay on that road some more and you get to the Cauvery Junction.
T J S George wrote a beautiful and sarcastic piece about that “straight road” that becomes a U-turn there some weeks back in the Express.
You should read it to understand what I’m trying to say.
If Bangalore has so far survived bad planning and engineering in terms of Scissorhands and Tragic Boxes, I’m sure it will also take cracks in Metro pillars in its stride.
After all, we live by a code: swalpa adjust maadi.


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