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PWD, Lucknow Municipal Corporation jam solar based traffic project

According to reports, the ambitious project of installing solar-powered cantilever traffic signals at 40 major intersections across the city is stuck due to lack of proper planning and coordination between various agencies. The estimated Rs 3.6-crore build-operate-transfer project meant to ease traffic congestion and chaos remains incomplete as Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) has not been able to transfer advertising rights to private agencies handling the project. Currently, almost 1/3{+r}{+d} of the traffic lights have not been put up, though it is eight months past the deadline.

The other roadblock is an objection raised by the Public Works Department (PWD). While LMC went ahead with the project promising rights for all the stretches under the project to private agencies, it forgot to keep other state agencies in the loop. Citing some state directive, PWD did not give permission to advertise on roads under its purview.

In keeping with recommendations of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) on beautification of the city, in December 2010, LMC had awarded a 10-year contract to two national capital region (NCR)-based private agencies to install 20 solar powered traffic signals, individually. The model was to give advertising rights on two unipoles, considered hot media property in outdoor advertising, in exchange of each installed cantilever signal system, to the private agencies. The LMC did not have to invest a single penny in installation or maintenance of the poles, though in return both the agencies agreed to pay up an amount of Rs 9 lakh each to civic body, annually in lieu of exploiting the rights. The move was touted as a big step towards disciplining traffic in the city.

Cut to present day-the project is incomplete. “We have completed 13 junctions out of the total 20 and have not been transferred advertising rights for all of them. We have already invested close to Rs 1 crore in the project,” says P S Sethi, chief of Invoice Electronic Pvt Ltd, one of the agencies handling the project.

Not surprisingly, a majority of the 27 junctions where cantilever traffic poles have been installed, continue to be defunct and an eyesore. In all, less than 10 traffic signals function in the city, while only the one at the Hazratganj intersection is religiously followed by motorists. Remaining signals, when not manned by cops, are usually ignored by motorists. While Akhilesh Yadav is trying hard to sell Lucknow as an investment destination, his dream will remain just that without improvement in overall traffic and civic sense of the city.

“We have decided to provide alternative spots to agencies so that they can go ahead with the project. The decisions were taken in the past and we have been trying to resolve them, including the issue of speedy coordination between traffic police and agencies maintaining the signals,” additional municipal commissioner of LMC, Rakesh Verma said.

Experts on the other hand feel the entire project is more about LMC making some money, than traffic management. Mohit Dev, a Lucknow-based transport planner feels, “Such projects will not be helpful unless sustained awareness drives and campaigns aimed at improving traffic sense of the motorists are undertaken. Another way to tackle the problem could be to increase the fine amount by at least 50 per cent.” Dev also pointed at traffic management of Singapore where cameras have been installed at traffic signals and cops, sitting in the office, fine the violators.

Lucknow has witnessed immense growth in the number of vehicles in recent years and as per Lucknow City Development Plan, the area dedicated to roads is lower than other similar sized cities, a fact that leads to traffic congestion and bottlenecks.

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