*The news story published on The New Indian Express, quoting CPPR Chairman, Dr. D. Dhanuraj’s suggestions to stop frequent bus accidents in Kochi.

KOCHI: Going by the two mishaps that occurred on Tuesday, it is clear that such tales of gore and tragedy will continue to rattle Kochi if the private buses aren’t reined in. Aside from the apathy of authorities and alleged links between those in power and bus owners, what is actually stopping those at the helm from controlling these terror mongers?
According to experts, the issue lies in two contradictory rules that bind the bus services; the schedule of timings and the speed limit. In the current situation, the buses won’t be able to maintain their timing, if they stick to the stipulated speed limit, that is 35 km/hr within the city. A Centre for Public Policy Research official had mentioned how the schedules are set without considering the increasing traffic in the city every year, thus compelling the drivers to overspeeding.

Many loopholes
As per the Regional Transport Officer, the directive concerning speed limit is itself a mismatch. “The national-level speed limit for heavy vehicles like the bus is 80 km/hr when installing a speed governor. And, in cities, we have set it at 35 km/hr. But, many buses start and end the service outside the city, entering the city limits in between. Here is where the issue comes as legally they can move at 80 km/hr. Also, the running time of a bus from one point to another is set by the State Transport Authority. A district authority cannot change it,” said Jojy P Jose, Regional Transport Officer (RTO), Ernakulam.

Pepping up surveillance
With the setting up of camera surveillance system with the upcoming Smart City Mission’s (CSM) project, the Police expect to bring in more control. “We are aiming for a complete makeover. With the installation of speed governors with GPS and GPRS facilities, monitoring can be enhanced. We have already decided the areas and other aspects with CSM consultants and hope to implement it soon,” said M P Dinesh IPS, District Police Chief, Ernakulam.National Transportation Planning and Research Centre thinks focusing on safety measures is the only solution.“As widening of roads is not an easy option in the city, we should focus on improving the safety measures. Along with the patrolling, authorities should ensure specific points for overtaking, the effectiveness of lane traffic, systematic positioning of reflectors amongst others,” said a NATPAC official.

Improving Infrastructure
Experts are of the view that improving the existing infrastructure will better the situation. “Kochi is yet to utilise the roads to the maximum. We have to rationalise our bus routes. Most of our bus stops are established without any scientific studies. A proper roadmap with the coordination between city traffic police and other stakeholders is needed,” said D Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR).Despite metro cities like Pune setting an example by establishing a separate bus lane with barricades to ensure smoother and faster movement, Kochi is yet to follow the path.“For establishing a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), Kochi doesn’t have to acquire much land. A separate lane can be made in less than what we acquired for Kochi Metro. Unfortunately, the officials have different priorities,” said D Dhanuraj, CPPR.

Responsible passengers
Many think passengers are responsible too. “The passengers have to play their part in reducing the menace. They have the collective responsibility to break their silence against overspeeding and should show the willingness to inform us about the flouting of norms ,” said an East Kochi City Traffic Police officer.

Solutions for safer road
Establishing a dedicated lane or Bus Rapid Transit System for the buses on the lines of other Indian metro cities Foolproof high-end camera surveillance across the city to monitor on-road flouting of rules Enforcing speed governors with sufficient software support to record the on-time overspeeding and other violations Rationalising bus routes and bus stops for the optimum use of the existing infrastructure and easing off the traffic

*This news story can be also read at The New Indian Express’s website.

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