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Mumbai Pune Expressway safety issues

March 1, 2007

I took a few pictures of the Mumbai Pune expressway the other day which I wanted to share. This is one of the most beautiful roads in India. It is a three lane expressway (plus shoulder) just on one side. In other words, it is India’s first six-lane concrete, high-speed tolled expressway. Only four wheeler vehicles are allowed here. Agricultural tractors are not allowed, but semi-trailer rigs are. The expressway is almost a hundred kms long and was opened to traffic in the year 2000, but was completed only in 2002. It has dramatically improved the journey from Mumbai to Pune. Now one can easily make it in three and a half hours.

Strangely, the old journey (which I have made since I was a kid) on the narrow winding two way roads took the same time then as it does now because the traffic at the time was not much! It was only in the nineties that the traffic on the Mumbai Pune route increased to such an extent that the journey became intolerable. One small accident could create hold-ups of six to eight hours. There have been instances of people being stuck the whole night on the old road! People had started to prefer the train journey…but now the trains are taking the back seat.

People don’t follow traffic rules
The speed limit on this road is about 80 kms per hour but most people break this. Cars routinely travel at 100-140 kms per hour. So I really doubt that this road is as safe as it is touted to be. Also, the old habits of weaving in and out and crossing lanes remain! People are in such a darned hurry, that if there is a line at the toll, they try to squeeze past you and this causes more a very sticky situation. As for those manning the toll, they are not bothered.

Although the right lane is meant for overtaking, cars and trucks (not allowed on this lane at all) love to stick to it, forcing others to overtake from the left. The Volvo buses which are a frequent sight on this highway invariably break all speed limits and traffic rules.

So where are the cops? If you are lucky (or unlucky?) you might spot them at a distance, well in time to reduce your speed as you cruise past them!

Unpleasant statistics and experiences on the expressway
In 2006, 62 people were killed on the Mumbai Pune expressway and sadly, one of these people was my brother’s friend’s wife. My brother’s friend (in a Maruti car) was driving too fast and he lost control and hit a pole on the left side.

And one of our nightmarish experiences was when an old truck to the right of us (traveling on the right lane where it was not supposed to be) suddenly veered to the right, straight into the wide divider, jumped over it, crossed over to the other side, went across the road (thankfully no vehicles were coming from that side) and hit a tree on the other side of the road! Maybe the driver was drunk. We didn’t wait to find out.

Inspite of this, the Mumbai Pune Expressway remains a wonderful road to on travel on. One has to throw off a false sense of security one gets on this road however. True, its a beautiful drive with breathtaking scenery along the western ghats, and one can reach Pune in three flat, but as long as there are stupid and dangerous drivers along this road who want to make it in two hours….we all have to be extra careful. People actually boast about how they drive from Mumbai to Pune in two hours!

The picture below is of one of the many tunnels that carve their way through the mountains but as photography is not allowed, I am showing a blurred version.

Is there crime on the Expressway?
No, although there were some incidents when it first started. There used to long stretches which were deserted but today there are no deserted stretches. Also, the police claim that the gangs that operated here are behind bars.

Emergency helplines (9822498224) specifically meant for this expressway and plus there are emergency phones installed every half a kilometre. So help arrives in a jiffy. Nothing to fear really!

In fact once we did have a problem with the car and we were about two kms from the expressway. Some construction workers were very helpful and told us that a garage was a kilometre ahead. The guys were so sweet that they helped us push the car to the side and I remained there while my husband took a rickshaw to the garage and got a tow van. I felt very safe throughout. That was when we realised that the Expressway Help numbers only help you if you are on the Expressway! We called and they said sorry, you aren’t yet on the expressway so fend for yourself!

The good news is that the expressway might be extended right up to Mumbai (right now it is only from Panvel) and one has to go through an hour or less of traffic before one reaches it. But inspite of this, one can make it to Pune in three and a half hours at the most. On the Pune side the expressway starts almost immediately after the city ends.

Related Reading: What is the solution to India’s high accident rate?
Jail works as a deterrent to stop traffic offenders
How much blood alcohol are you allowed in different countries of the world? A comparison
Isn’t helping accident victims our duty as citizens?
Drunk Driving is a major cause of road accidents in India
Shortage of policemen in India – a comparison with the world
Indore has the coolest and the best city bus service

Related Viewing: Expressway accidents on the rise
Some photographs of the Mumbai- Pune Expressway
Sudden showers on the Mumbai-Pune-Expressway – a slide-show
Scenery on the Mumbai Pune Expressway

More posts on Photography and some slideshows

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2007 8:21 am

    My oh my, Nita – this Mumbai-Pune Expressway could be our very own Lower Mainland Freeway, with the exception of the vegetation and the brilliant sun! Ours was built in the early 1960s and was initially two lanes going in each direction, plus a pull-out lane for emergencies on both sides. Since about 15 years ago this was widened to 3lanes plus emergency lane for both sides. This freeway goes for @100 miles (200+km) and is incredibly busy. Speeds range from 90km near municipalities to 110 km on rural stretches. As in India, people here observe the speed limits with a rather cavalier attitude and mostly speed. The police patrol their allotted stretches within the individual municipal boundaries and breakdowns are promptly addressed. I would say generally we Canadians are a law-abiding lot (except for our propensity to drive faster than legal limits) and there are not many thugs operating on our freeway to make driving a dangerous pastime, and if one is stuck on the side of the road due to break-down people do come along to get and give help. A woman alone at night here on the roads is well-advised to lock herself in her car if broken down, and with the prevalence of cell phones, can easily summon quick help.
    A major problem that has arisen from the extensive use of autos to get about in large numbers for long distances is massive pollution. The air quality in the hot summer months is really poor and very hard on people with respiratory conditions.
    One of the interesting side-effects I suffered from 20years ago while in Los Angeles and getting about on its massive freeway system is that I broke out in an amazing rash on my face. The air quality there is horrendous and a dirty yellow-gray pall can be seen as covering the whole Los Angeles basin. Here too in BC we have unnaturally yellowish daytime skies over the Lower Mainland. The problem is too many cars on the roads, poor transit service and many extremely tired and frustrated commuters. But our love-affair with cars will soon come to an end, I think, and it will be a timely and welcome ending!

  2. Avinash gholap permalink
    February 10, 2009 9:59 am

    Mai to is hiway se gadi 200 kmph. Se chalata hu !!!!!!!

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