CHENNAI: Cars that don’t have a furiously blaring siren, a police escort or the letter ‘G’ inscribed on their number plates, will have to jostle for space while entering the lane outside the Chennai Airport’s Arrival gate. Why? Because half the road — the equivalent of two lanes — has been barricaded by the police and reserved for VIPs, and for the vehicles of visiting government officials. This move was enforced by the traffic police as a compromise to opening the lane for vehicular traffic at the beginning of the month.
Though traffic flow is fairly uniform during regular hours, long lines begin to form during the peak hours of 7 to 9.30 am and 5 to 8 pm every single day.
Ironically, during these periods, the half of the road that is closer to the terminal is usually bereft of vehicles or activity, unless a Minister or politician is expected to land.
“Even at times when the line is so long that cars extend almost all the way to the toll gates outside, police do not relent and allow this portion of the road to be opened. It’s very difficult for people who don’t want to park inside and try to enter and exit within 10 minutes,” said Brinda K, a tour guide who works for a travel management firm. Others like Hertz driver R Manikandan who make at least seven to 10 runs to the airport every week complained that their clients don’t like to walk to the parking lane, but often despise waiting that 10 minutes for the car to come from the parking lot to the arrival gate.
“This is besides hopping through the barricade. Foreigners hate that,” he fumed.
For his part, Airport Director Captain Deepak Shastri has assured passengers that he will gradually talk to the police and attempt to work out a viable solution. “This arrangement has only just been made. We must wait and watch what the pros and cons are, and based on that we will make a suitable recommendation,” he had said with regard to the lane situation.
Shastri and Airports Authority of India (AAI) had engaged in a lengthy series of discussions with the traffic police before reaching a stage where the lane was thrown open to the public again, after a year of being closed to everyone except VIPs.
When queries about why the VIP lane was kept reserved when there was no movement, a senior police official said, “There are usually three to five VIP movements, besides unscheduled landings. We cannot clear a lane just because someone comes suddenly. This is better because the escort and the VIP vehicles have a place to park in, and there is no security issue. There are VIPs from Chennai, Puducherry and even places like Tirupati who come through here.”