New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated the Pragati Maidan Integrated Transit Corridor project, built at a cost of more than ₹920 crore, that will provide hassle-free access to the renovated exhibition-cum-convention centre and ease traffic movement in central Delhi.
The corridor will be opened to the public from Monday.
Speaking at the inauguration event, the Prime Minister said that the transit corridor is part of the central government’s plan to transform Pragati Maidan according to the needs of the 21st century. He said that the exhibition centre, which was developed decades back to showcase India’s progress, has not seen much “progress” due to lack of initiative by the previous government.
The PM said that the transit corridor is the Centre’s “gift of modern infrastructure to the national capital”. He also listed other road infrastructure and transport projects planned by the Centre to make Delhi one of the “best-connected capitals in the world”.
The people of Delhi and NCR have suffered a lot due to the traffic congestion at ITO and nearby areas, he said. “The 1.5km long tunnel will provide relief to thousands of people coming from east Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad (and commuting to central Delhi). This integrated corridor will help people save time and fuel,” Modi said at the event.
He added that the project will help save 5.5 million litres of fuel, and the traffic decongestion will result in an environmental dividend equivalent to planting 500,000 trees.
The PM praised the engineers for executing the challenging work, which involved constructing the tunnel under seven railway tracks and carrying out construction work in an area which has high traffic volume, in a short time. He also praised the artwork on the tunnel walls and suggested that it could be turned into an open art gallery on Sundays and inviting people to visit by stopping vehicular movement for a few hours.
Commerce minister Piyush Goyal, housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri, ministers of state Som Parkash, Anupriya Patel and Kaushal Kishore were present at the event.
The India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) planned the integrated transit corridor as part of its Pragati Maidan redevelopment project in 2017. The project includes a 1.4km-long tunnel, which passes through Pragati Maidan, connecting Ring Road with India Gate and six underpasses (five were inaugurated on Sunday and one is under construction). The redevelopment work of Pragati Maidan, which is the venue for the G20 summit next year, is expected to be completed by September this year.
The project, which was entirely funded by the Centre, was executed by the Delhi government’s Public Works Department.
The PM said that the central government in the past eight years has planned several road infrastructures projects such as highways (Delhi-Meerut, Delhi Mumbai, Delhi-Jaipur), expansion of Delhi Metro’s network from 193km to 400 kms and Rapid Rail Transit Systems (RRTS) to make “Delhi one of the best-connected capitals in the world”.
The improvement in connectivity between Delhi and NCR towns will “ease the urban burden” on Delhi, the PM said, and added that urbanisation shouldn’t be seen as a challenge but as an opportunity.
“If we take urbanisation as an opportunity rather than a challenge, then it will contribute manifold to the development of the country,” Modi said.
He said that the Pragati Maidan exhibition centre, which was developed decades back to showcase the country’s progress, products and Indian traditions, was neglected due to lack of initiative by the previous government. “Unfortunately, there was not much ‘Pragati’ (progress) of the Pragati Maidan,” he said.
Stressing on the need for having state-of-the-art exhibition centres in the national capital and other cities, Modi said, “Modern infrastructure developed by the central government is changing the picture of Delhi and making it modern. This change in picture is a medium of changing destiny also.”
Modi said that his government’s focus on modernising infrastructure is driven by the vision of increasing ease of living for people. He cited the example of the newly constructed defence office complex at Africa Avenue and Kasturba Gandhi Marg. The PM said that for nearly decades the offices have operated from hutments, which were in dilapidated condition, in the Central Vista area. But now, the defence offices have been shifted to new buildings, which are eco-friendly, and provide a good environment and infrastructure for work, the Prime Minister said.
“I’m happy that the work on Central Vista and construction of the new Parliament building is moving at a fast pace. In the coming days, India’s capital will be a topic of discussion globally and a matter of pride for Indians,” the PM said.
The work on the tunnel and the underpasses started in November 2017. Commerce minister Piyush Goyal said that initially, the project was to be implemented together by the Centre and the Delhi government. While the Centre was to pay 80% of the total project cost, the state government was to pay the balance amount.
“Unfortunately, the state government said that they will not pay. When we informed the PM about it, he said that the Centre will pay for the project…Initially, the scale of the project was very small. But the PM asked us to do holistic planning and take a comprehensive view,” said Goyal.
Delhi government spokespersons did not comment on the matter.
The tunnel will provide seamless access to commuters between central Delhi and east Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad. The five underpasses will ease the traffic movement on Mathura Road and Bhairon Marg.
HT reported on Sunday that one of the underpasses on the junction of Bhairon Marg and Ring Road is yet to be completed. “The work has got stuck due to high groundwater water levels. We have deployed pumps to drain the water,” said a senior Delhi PWD engineer. The underpass will not only make the junction signal free but also provide interruption free movement between the two inter-state bus terminuses at Sarai Kale Khan and Kashmere Gate.
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