Kuthiran: The traffic snarls along the national highway 544 here in Thrissur district are a nightmare for motorists. The inordinate delay in opening the twin-tube tunnel here, which is touted to ease the traffic congestion, is putting the travellers in much distress.
It was decided to construct a 30 km six-lane corridor between Wadakkanchery and Mannuthy on NH 544. Though work was completed only on 5 km of highway, the six-lane stretch for the remaining distance is motorable. But unfortunately, the width of 3kms of the road there is only 7 meters. The traffic bottleneck is quite natural as vehicles coming from Vazhakumapara in the west and Kombuzha in the east, which have six-lane roads, enter the narrow two-lane stretch here.
The traffic jam can only get worse if any vehicle gets stranded on this steep road with many twists and turns. The traffic snarls become inevitable as there is no parallel road to one passing through the mountainous terrain of Kuthiran.
The road near to the western tunnel mouth was reinforced with gunny bags filled with mud but now the bags have started to give way. The present highway is at a height of 20 meters from the tunnel mouth, and metallic sheets had been installed to prevent accidents on this stretch. Even these metallic sheets have started to collapse, and the authorities have not taken any steps to ensure the safety of people.
The solution is opening of the tunnel
The only way out of the traffic snarls here is to throw open at least one tunnel to traffic, and for this many technical processes should be completed. Forest land should be allotted and security checks completed for the project. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the Forest Department and the contract company wasted precious time by pointing fingers at each other, and the wait is still on for the opening of the twin-tune tunnel for which 90 per cent of the work is over.
Tarring done out of fear
The tarring of the Mulayum road is being done following the verbal direction of the Human Rights Commission, which has called for a sitting on June 24. The commission gave a direction following a complaint by DCC general secretary Shaji Kodagandathu. Meanwhile, the NHAI had informed the Kerala High Court that the construction of highway would be completed by December 31, 2019. But completing the work by that time will be a tall order for the authorities concerned. Though there was an earlier order, based on another complaint by Shaji, to slap murder charges against the NHAI for the accidental deaths on the highway, the Kerala High Court stayed the order following a plea from NHAI chairman.
What should be done now
The safety of tunnel mouth is a high priority, and the police presence should be ensured. Mud should be removed from the road and requisite warning boards installed. As per the earlier assurance, the width of the 3-km road here should be increased by at least one-and-a-half meters.
There is someone to raise issues: T N Prathapan, elected Thrissur MP
“The NHAI and the contract company were found wanting in completing the highway construction work at Kuthiran. Earlier there was no one to raise the issues. The people have to suffer because of the shortcomings of the company and officials. I will raise the issue after taking oath as the Member of Parliament,” said Prathapan.
He said that a meeting of the NHAI and contract company would be convened and the reasons for the delay in completing the work in a time-bound manner would be looked into.
“The officials and contract company will not be spared if it is found that they were deliberately delaying the work. Responsible people are here to raise the issues. A heavy price should be paid for the irresponsibility. Just wait till the oath-taking ceremony is over,” warned Prathapan.
Not the right way: Remya Haridas, elected Alathur MP
“The condition of the national highway is deplorable. Irresponsibility is quite evident, and efforts will be made to complete the work in a year. This road should not be like this…Necessary action will be taken in consultation with Thrissur MP T N Prathapan,” said Remya.