Demand grows for NATPAC office in Kochi

With traffic movement restricted at Vyttila and Kundannoor despite the commissioning of six-lane flyovers and dedicated free-left turns absent in most junctions in the city, the public and the traffic police have been demanding that the opinion of traffic and road-engineering experts from National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) and related agencies should be sought, even at the design stage.

The demand has intensified in the backdrop of alleged flaws in the construction of traffic islands and roundabouts by the Public Works Department (NH wing) at the two busy junctions on the Edappally-Aroor NH Bypass.

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Interestingly, experts from NATPAC were involved in the design of junctions when the Cherthala-Edappally-Aroor NH corridor was widened as four-lane in the late 1990s, and had an office here, as part of the project management team, until the completion of the Cochin International Airport in 2003 .

The NATPAC now has a regional office in Kozhikode, but not in Kochi, despite the city having narrow, unscientifically-designed, congested and accident-prone roads.

“The PWD has failed to ensure smooth movement of traffic and pedestrians at Vyttila, even though massive funds were invested on building a six-lane flyover. The junction does not have footpaths, while the traffic lights meant to ensure safe crossing by pedestrians have been switched off. Technical experts from Thiruvananthapuram-based NATPAC should ideally have been involved in the flyover’s design and junction redesign,” said T.N. Pratapan, State general convenor of Janakeeya Anweshana Samithi, a Thammanam-based NGO.

The Samithi shot off letters and mails to the City Police Commissioner and the District Collector, but to no avail, said Mr. Pratapan. The State government must rope in experts from agencies such as NATPAC to do an in-depth study of problems encountered by road users at such junctions in the city, at least in this eleventh hour, he added.

Meanwhile, NATPAC Director Samson Mathew said the agency was of the firm opinion that there was need for a regional office in Kochi. “A proposal in this regard has been readied. The agency has been conducting studies to improve road safety in the city during the past years (in tandem with Kerala Road Safety Authority and the traffic police). We hope to recruit more personnel in the coming months, including to man regional offices,” he added.

Former Director of NATPAC, T. Elankovan, who is at present the Executive Director of the KRSA, said that officials of many government agencies that built and maintained roads and allied infrastructure had little knowledge of junction design. “A metro city like Kochi needs permanent presence of technical experts who have sound knowledge of road and junction design.”

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