Bengaluru-Mysuru E-Way links cities but divides people

The Expressway, while cutting short travel time, has left many by the wayside.
Massive traffic congestion near NICE Road at the entry of the newly inaugurated Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway. (Photo, EPS)
Massive traffic congestion near NICE Road at the entry of the newly inaugurated Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway. (Photo, EPS)

BENGALURU: It’s been exactly a week since the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway was thrown open to reduce travel time between the two cities. While the project has significantly reduced travel time, problems mar the route, which people say could have been avoided had the project been planned with vision, and toll collection be stalled till the service road is completed.

TNIE travelled on the six-lane e-way, from its starting point in Bengaluru to its endpoint in Mysuru, to know what commuters feel, the road condition, service road condition, and what local residents, shopkeepers and eatery owners say. 

The project drew mixed reactions, with some commuters happy to cruise at over 100kmph, but felt the project had failed to address many small things. They also missed the pit stops for steaming hot local delicacies like thatte idli at Bidadi and colourful wooden toys at Channapatna. They also complained of congestion at the entry and exit points and pointed out that the e-way lacks basic amenities like toilets.

Confusion, congestion at starting point 

Just before hitting the expressway, a traveller from Bengaluru has to pass through a congested stretch after the NICE Road junction, near the Panchamukha Ganapati Temple.

Hundreds of vehicles that exit NICE Road at Kengeri take a left, and merge with the traffic coming from Bengaluru city, creating congestion. Further ahead, confused commuters slow down to check if they have to take the flyover or go below, creating a block.

“People who want to head to Bidadi and Ramanagara have to go below the flyover or pay the toll. Many commuters get confused, creating congestion before the e-way begins,” said Subramanya, a regular on the e-way.

As many commuters vented their anger against the collection of full toll fee even to reach Bidadi and Ramanagara, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has put up boards directing people heading to Bidadi and Ramanagara to take the service road, and warning that they have to pay the full toll if they take the flyover before Rajarajeshwari Medical College.

Despite this, many commuters on two-wheelers and four-wheelers take the flyover, making a dangerous U-turn and heading back on the same lane to take the service road. In the absence of patrolling and highway assistance, one could see trucks and cars that had broken down, and those involved in accidents, lying on the expressway for days.

The toll debate

Once on the flyover, a vehicle can easily cruise at 100 kmph and reach the Kaniminike toll booth after the flyover ends. At the booth, commuters were seen arguing with the staffers, and more than 10 vehicles waiting to cross the toll gate even during non-peak hours. But, with the service road still incomplete after the toll booth, vehicles that chose to go below the flyover to avoid the toll, get onto the e-way without paying a paisa.

NHAI said they are yet to construct a service road for a stretch of about 100 metres, as the matter is in the High Court. When the stay is vacated, we will complete the stretch and prevent vehicles from entering the e-way, bypassing the toll, they said.

No steam at Bidadi eateries

While the e-way provides a diversion to commuters to reach Bidadi and Wonderla, there are very few who divert to savour the steaming thatte idlis. “Earlier, we used to have more than 3,000 people coming to our hotel on weekends and holidays. Now, we’ve lost 70 per cent of our business. Except for old customers who take a deviation from the e-way, we get hardly any travellers,” said Dayanand, owner of Hotel Guru in Bidadi, famed for its thatte idli. He laments that the 27-year-old hotel, which had nearly 20 staff, is downsized to five. Many hotels have pulled down shutters and hung ‘to-let’ boards.


Toy City deserted

As the e-way bypasses the Toy City of Channapatna, many shops lie deserted. “Our main customers are highway travellers. We used to do good business on weekends and holidays but don’t have any customers now,” said a toy shop owner. He demands that the government think about the future of artisans and shopkeepers, and make provisions for them on the e-way.

Contrary to claims that the service road is for people to reach Mysuru without paying a toll, the road is incomplete and leads to dead ends. “Before giving a U-turn diversion for e-way commuters to reach Channapatna, there is a railway track. Expressway users can cross the track by climbing a flyover. Those who go below hit a dead end as the service road ends at the railway track. People have to take a detour on the service road, reach Channapatna and then join the service road after travelling many kilometres,” said Nanje Gowda, a local farmer.

Piping hot coffee at Maddur

“An hour-and-a-half-long drive from Maddur to Mysuru on a weekend night with friends has been mandatory for us for the past six years. Also, we would wait for about 45 minutes for our favourite coffee there. But over the past couple of weeks, we are able to reach Maddur from Mysuru in very little time,” says Abhilash, a senior tester at an MNC, who was with school friends at a café in Maddur. 

Service road work in progress near Mandya. (Photo | Shashidhar
Byrappa & Udayashankar S, EPS)

No underpass, villagers unhappy 

While the BJP hopes that the project will help the party make inroads in the Old Mysuru region, there is visible displeasure against the government and NHAI authorities among villagers, especially in the Mandya and Maddur belt. They feel the authorities have failed to fulfil promises and assurances they had made. Like Siddappa, a farmer leader in Hale Budnuru village, who was struggling to cross the expressway with his livestock to reach his farmland, which is in the opposite direction. “We were told the underpass which connects our houses and farmland would be finished soon. All other works are complete, even the project is inaugurated, but my struggle to cross the road with the fear of being hit by a vehicle has not ended,” he said. Siddappa took nearly 15 minutes to cross the expressway.

Similar complaints were raised by Yogesh, who was crossing the expressway with a few items in his hand which he had purchased for his house, currently under construction. “It takes 6km for us to take a U-turn to reach the opposite direction to our village. While laying of asphalt and other work have been completed in a hurry when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was here to inaugurate the road, the underpass, which is under progress, is not completed,” he said.

The villagers of Hale Budnuru said the expressway connects one city to another but at the same time, divides the village as they struggle to cross from one end to another.

Entry and exit points

This is just one instance of woes villagers are facing on the Maddur-Mysuru stretch of the e-way, as demands of additional underpasses, entry and exit points to villages and incomplete work on the main carriageway cause great inconvenience. 

It has led to serious concern on the main carriageway, with many locals riding bikes on the one-way to avoid taking long routes, risking speeding vehicles coming from opposite directions. It could lead to vehicles losing control and colliding with each other, or the bikes losing balance and toppling to avoid hitting vehicles.

Work is still pending near Siddalingapura, Indavalu, where work on the service road and main stretch on the carriageway is still under construction. Though the authorities claim the six-lane expressway is completely access-controlled, a majority of covers have been damaged by villagers to gain access to the expressway. This causes vehicles to swerve into the service road before the toll booth and into villagers passing by, besides posing a disturbance to vehicles on the expressway.

“Highways should have emergency telephones at periodic intervals and also display emergency helplines. Highway hospitals have to be equipped to handle such emergencies. When such a project is planned, there should be provision for an ambulance bay, first-aid centres and helipads, only then will we be on par with developed countries,” said Dr NK Venkataramana, founder chairman & director, Brains Super Speciality Hospital, Bengaluru.

Good road, fast transport

The road quality seems good, and the objective of the project, which is to bring down travel time between the two cities, covering 118km within 90 minutes or less, has been served. This will help save fuel, reduce pollution and allow seamless, safer and faster inter-state travel from Karnataka to neighbouring states, besides hassle-free passenger movement. It provides fast, affordable transportation of agricultural projects and manufactured products to further boost the socioeconomic development of the region.

“Travel time between Bengaluru and Mysuru has been considerably reduced, which is beneficial for trade, industries and the public. We require many more expressways in our state. Toll payment has commenced without proper development of service roads, which is very essential. It is suggested that toll charges be collected only after paving the way for districts and townships between Bengaluru and Mysuru,” said B V Gopal Reddy, President, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

He also raised concern over trade and industry being affected by the toll, as the service road is not complete, and feared it would escalate prices.

Crime on the expressway

Another major concern is that of crime in recent times. Two couples from Mysuru were robbed at knife-point on the expressway. More CCTVs, including AI-installed features, can bring down the crime rate, as the organised syndicate can avoid taking chances on the road stretch. It can detect traffic violations and overspeeding, and serve notices to them. 

What it needs 

Though the six-lane expressway is all set, stretches of road where work is pending, including the service roads, should be finished at the earliest to achieve its full benefit. The main focus now should also be on providing wayside amenities, including proper toilets, fuel stations, food courts, parking spaces for vehicles, SOS and proper functioning of helplines, which were found dysfunctional during a check by TNIE. Commuters want congestion at the entry and exits of the e-way to be addressed.

Though Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has assured that roadside amenities will be provided at 23 places, they must be installed within the next six months, with the focus on artists and artisans to display and sell their handicrafts, handlooms, silks, wood carvings, furniture and sandalwood products.

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