Saturday, May 23, 2009

An overbridge to chaos in Cox Town

An overbridge to chaos in Cox Town

Residents and shopkeepers in Cox Town are livid at the inordinate delay in the construction of overbridge. Odeal D'Souza finds out the details

Odeal D'Souza

The inordinate delay in the construction of a bridge over the railway gate in Cox Town has wreaked havoc with the lives of residents and shopkeepers in the neighbourhood. Business has slumped. Out of the 150 shops in the area, more than 50 have been closed down in the last two years. Not a pretty picture, by any count. Construction began in June 2006 on a one-kilometre long overbridge, with an 18-month deadline. Now many fear it would go on forever.
The project had good intentions, to begin with. The bridge was planned to avoid traffic congestion when the railway gate is closed to let trains pass through. It would connect Wheeler Road to Banaswadi Main Road, bringing relief to harried motorists. Maybe, that was a mistake, shopkeepers and residents in the area say now.
The delay in completing the project has hit shopkeepers hard. They say their business has come down at least 60 per cent in the last two years.
People familiar with the matter say that already Rs150 crore has been spent on the project.
East Coast Company, the contractors for the project, has come under public flak for the delay. Nithyanand, project head, East Coast, says: "We admit there has been a delay in completing the project. The increase in the cost of building materials has contributed to the delay. We will try and complete the work by July, 2009. To enable pedestrians to cross the area safely during the night we have sufficiently illuminated the place."
Spokesperson for the South Western Railway says the project will get over soon. "All approvals have been given. So there will not be any further delay."
Resident welfare associations such as Rewab have reasons to be upset. Kamarajan, a resident, says: "All that required was a small flyover or underpass at the railway junction to avoid traffic congestion."
Due to the prolonged construction of the bridge, traffic has been diverted on Wheeler Road. Shoppers are reluctant to visit the neighbourhood thanks to messy conditions.
A shopkeeper says: "We are having a tough time. I think around 20 per cent of the people who run shops here now would be soon left with no choice but to pull the shutters down."
NR Ravi, president, Maruthi Nagar Resident Welfare Association, has been trying to bring the situation to the attention of railway authorities. "We have staged many protest rallies to highlight the situation prevailing here. But authorities have been indifferent. However, we are determined to carry on with our struggle."
Crossing the railway track too tests the patience of the residents. The area is not well-lit and only recently some warning signboards have been put up by the shopkeepers. It has become an accident-prone zone, says a doctor, who runs a clinic in the area.


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