More than a month after it was opened for traffic, the six-lane Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) is not being used as much as it should have been by trucks and other heavy vehicles, members of the Environment Pollution Control Board told National Highways Authority of India and police officials during a meeting.
According to NHAI officials, 13,000 vehicles daily use the expressway on an average, which was thrown open to the public on May 28.
However, of the total, only 799 are trucks and buses while 1,064 are heavy motor vehicles (HMVs) and 3,168 are light motor vehicles (LCVs). The number of vehicles is based on the data recorded over the last 15 days, as the toll charging started from June 15. Before the expressway was opened for traffic, the NHAI officials had estimated that at least one lakh vehicles would use the expressway.
The Expressway was built to ensure that non-destined vehicles take the six-lane expressway, thereby reducing congestion and pollution on the city’s roads. Non-destined trucks and heavy vehicles are a major contributor to air pollution in Delhi-NCR.
The issue of commercial vehicles not using the expressway was raised after complaints of the environment compensation charge (ECC) paid by trucks fell by nearly 30% over the last two weeks as the number of trucks entering the EPE has not increased.
During the meeting, police from three states of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh said they would conduct a study of commercial traffic passing through the expressway for a clearer picture and ensure that vehicles use the route.
The NHAI officials present in the meeting said, they would place more signages and interchanges to make the route viable and visible for drivers.
The EPCA — a Supreme Court mandated body to control air pollution in Delhi-NCR — in its last survey of 13 border points across the city had found 35,000 trucks (those paying ECC) entering city limits every night.
“Our aim is to reduce the number of these trucks entering the city by half. We are trying, through various agencies, to bring the number of trucks using the EPE to around 15,000 in order to reduce pollution before winter sets in from October,” said an EPCA member.
“It is mainly because vehicles wanting to go from NH-1 to NH-8 do no take the EPE because it’s too long for them and not feasible as such. This situation will improve once the Western Peripheral Expressway opens,” said a senior NHAI official, who did not wished to be named.
The information officer (IO) of the Union ministry for road, transport and highways, under which the NHAI functions, was unavailable for comment.
Joint CP (traffic) Garima Bhatnagar said, “We have started strict picketing at borders so that we don’t get non-destined traffic. Since truck drivers are not aware of EPE and the toll structure there they try to get through Delhi. However, we are not allowing non-destined trucks to enter Delhi at all since May 30. This will encourage them to use the EPE.”
The NHAI plans to introduce two interchanges at the EPE — around the Taj Expressway and at Faridabad for those wanting to take the Palwal-Aligarh road.