Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hyper Loop Vs. Dead Loop of Traffic!

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”… Paulo Coelho.

No need to introduce Paulo Coelho, the Noble prize writer, probably the most famed in our era (2000) & it’s his above quote from The Alchemist which I remembered when I started reading the news about one such dream Hyper-loop! And looking at the way we the common men has been shown the dreams by our rulers (read govt), I felt like modifying Coelho’s quote a bit (keeping due respect to him), “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve & that is seeing another dream”! Well, I am not saying this sarcastically, no that’s not something which a hard core Nagpurian can do, though it comes easily to a Punekar (and let me tell that’s a good quality if used effectively), and I really mean it! As when its city development, well this aspect covers many things, right from affordable housing to twenty four hours water supply to public transport to good pot holes-less roads & many such, our rulers loves to show that they are really doing something great for the citizens. And then on this front showing dreams is very important as unless you show us dreams, how we will vote you! 

If you see the recent dreams on the front of public transport, then earlier there was BRTS (we all know what has happened to it), then there was Monorails, then there was HCMTR (high capacity mass transport route), then there was River transport (that was real funny) & then lastly it was Metro. Indeed Metro is very much real as work has been started though its viability & affordability is being questioned & since the day of announcement it’s in lime light for good & bad reasons. The work of Metro is going on two routes & many more routes are in planning as well the destinations keeps on changing, yet at least some work is on finally. Though if someone can remember, let’s try to recollect first date of the dream showed to us named Metro i.e. announcement date! I am sure it’s nearly ten years back & now this year the work has started & looking at speed with which we complete our public works (engineering college fly over or karve nagar fly over or empire estate fly over in PCMC are few legendary names in this list) then the target of Metro completion date is a big question mark. Especially when the Metro route from river bed is in controversy & so is the Metro terminal at west end of the city i.e. on paud road. Well, good thing is govt is keen on implementing Metro & doing every possible effort (even to bend the policies of bio diversity park) to make Metro a reality & seems is ready to pay the cost on front of biodiversity/ environment damage to the city. But then the fight between developments vs. environment was, is & will be always on, just like in super hero movies fight of good & bad is always on. With due respect our own definitions of good & bad, keeps on changing is a bitter fact. As the very govt who doesn’t take any decision about BDP on hills can make exception for Metro & allow construction on hills as well the nature lovers (environmentalist is so much over used term as well its taboo for many) don’t want any construction on hills, along river as well in green belts but don’t have any solution to protect these spaces from encroachments & turns blind eye on existing slums or illegal constructions which like a cancer killing every open space in the city! I don’t say that govt is not on fault & its job of the nature lovers to stop such encroachment but then to provide a logical win-win solution to achieve the wanted outcome on conservation of biodiversity front is also a part of so called nature love. Instead to demand ban entire construction or don’t give any TDR for any such BDP can’t be the solution is also a fact, especially looking at the history of city’s growth! 

The newly formed PMRDA has taken lead in hyper-loop development which will connect Pune & New Mumbai (as of now). Won’t take reader’s time about giving technical details about hyper-loop as that’s available on internet,  yet one thing is till today nowhere in the world  this technology has come in commercial functioning & even up to 2021, only a ten kilometer trial track will come in existence & then fate of the entire project will be decided. Also financial feasibility is something the govt will look in & agreed with growing population of our country & increase in numbers of vehicles (private of course) no roads will be enough  to carry the traffic is what we are witnessing in & around our Pune city. And one more thing, I am not in opposition of hyper-loop or any other new technology which is being used for the growth yet I have few points to put forward in this aspect. We proudly build express-way to connect Pune to Mumbai & for last nearly eighteen years after this expressway has come in operation look at its utility, indeed the time has saved for the length of the expressway which is some eighty of kilometers but what is happening before & after both ends of expressway? It takes nearly an hour or more time to reach to start of the expressway from Pune side & same is the case when you enter in Mumbai & travelling towards any destination in Mumbai. The length of expressway hardly takes any time to cover but issue is with city traffic. And then look at the accidents happened on expressway & lives it has taken in these eighteen years which clearly indicates the negligence of authorities on the safety aspect of such means of transportation! Then we are looking at the numbers of commuters travelling between Pune & Mumbai & working out need or viability for technology like hyper-loop but why not there have been efforts to use the existing expressway or railway more effectively?  Won’t it be in much lesser spending as well the hyper-loop will take at least six to seven years to come in existence after its successful trial run, what till then? Why can’t we arrange to run more numbers of public transport vehicles on the express way as well increase numbers of trains when we acknowledge the potential for the traffic on this route?

Then one more aspect is with so many NGO’s as well media shouting all the time to increase safety measures on expressway why can’t we provide very basic things like strong barricading all along the length of express way as well dividing opposite lanes? Because most of the accidents are due to over speeding vehicles losing control & banging on other vehicles or entering in opposite lanes! The signage, speed guns, enough patrolling as well road conditions like thing follows later which is part of the measure needed to be taken to reduce the number of accidents on the expressway. Also equally important is ever ongoing awareness drive about safe driving among the expressway users, which is totally missing. Looking at history, our approach towards safety in transportation has been always a matter of concern, may it be road ways, railways or even air ways! In a country where over million people dies in various accidents in all modes of communication this makes me doubt our ability (not engineering but attitude) to build something so high-level technology where safety aspects also will be required to be taken care with equal precision. And this is what my main concern about technology like hyper-loop is; as if we can’t make a basic road like expressway safe then what assurance we can give for safe travel with speed of some thousand kilometers per hour type technology! At the same time keeping this track safe will also be a real challenge as look what happens to our railways or even expressway where anybody (including stray animal) can walk on the track causing serious damage to the commuters’ lives.

And I really appreciate PMRDA’s proactive role on hyper-loop front yet on the very same day when all new paper’s front page was covering hyper-loop news, on some inside page there was a news which goes un-noticed & that was about Hinjewadi (a suburb of Pmc-PCMC which is in PMRDA jurisdiction) residents who has filed petition for “Livable Infrastructure”! Its Hinjewadi which boasts world class IT companies head quarters in & around this region & thus it has become fastest growing locality where people from all over country are coming to settle down. And it this area which has no civic infrastructure, traffic congestion as well poor road network & road conditions is one of the biggest concerns. Its pity that the region which hosts world class companies’ workplaces & generates maximum revenue for the govt (I am considering all agencies PMRDA, PMC, PCMC, Urban Development) residents of such locality has to file petition for their basic needs & every such agency which is taking pride for making the dreams like Metro or Hyper-loop true turns blind eye towards this reality which the residents are living everyday & not dreaming! It’s said that the Metro will be costing some 11,000.00 crore rupees of which work has started already as well the entire costing of hyper-loop project is estimated to be around 3,00,000.00 crores of rupees (pardon me for the figure, as its too big even to write). On the top of it this very govt (not current but past & present govt is what I meant) is & was promising about airport for last nearly ten years yet the debate about even finalizing location & its acquisition is on. 

This is what makes me frustrated, I am not against any new technology & sure no sane person will be but any new technology is tried when existing resources are exhausted & tried or it’s followed on parallel basis of other possible options. What sucks with our system is we are busy in just diverting common mans mind from the existing problems by showing him new dreams, this has to be stopped! What has been done to solve city’s traffic problems as if the govt is so sensitive about traffic on Pune-Mumbai route then whose responsibility it is to look what’s happening to traffic on all major roads of Pune city itself? If we are ready to spend thousands of crores rupees for some hyper-loop then why we can’t spend just some hundred crores of these rupees for making every single road in & around Pune & its suburbs, in good condition first? Also why there is so much delay in making existing public transport system to function at fullest & support the same by funding for its needs like, busses, depot lands as well bus stops type infra? Rather this govt cant even give a full time able officer to PMPML (PMT, Pune’s public transport co.), I am saying this with due respect to every officer in the system as when Mr. Tukarm Munde, chief of PMT has been transferred before completing his tenure, on this when asked Hon Chief Minister replied, Nashik (where Mr. Munde has been transferred) also deserves able officer! I have lots of respect for our CM for his maturity & wisdom, but sometimes even wise men lose the track! Because Mr. CM, do you mean that there are just few capable officers are remaining in your system & if so then do you think Pune’s public transport as well traffic management doesn’t need any able officer now or you don’t have one such to be appointed here as this directly, means you don’t care about Pune & PCMC’s traffic or public transport, which is gravest situation in entire State? Agreed, there are issues like farmers suicides but look at the direct & indirect deaths happening on roads of Pune region, the figures are equally important as that of suicides of the farmers, is all I wanted to put forward!

High time our rulers should understand that showing dreams is good way to earn power through voting machines but finally it’s your actions & attitude what you do with your power, is what decides fate of that power, just do mind this fact & accept my best wishes for dream named Hyper-Loop!

Sanjay Deshpande 


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