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Millennium Post

Two hours to Agra, three more to Taj Mahal

A drive on the Yamuna Expressway from Greater Noida to Agra turned out to be mixed bag. Behind all the glitz of the new, broad roads, there are problems of modern-day urbanisation processes. It looked like an odd piece of land out amidst the bad approach roads and the promised services missing.

The first thing that greeted me as I took the expressway to go to Agra last weekend, after the huge sign welcoming everyone on to the road, of course, was a family posing by it and getting itself photographed for posterity. That's a regular feature on any new infrastructure project that our cities witness these days. And, such people know why they want these memories. ‘Why not? What if it is just a road? It is a brilliant road. It is representative of the way our country and its infrastructure is developing: I am happy to be here today,’ said the 19-year-old Pooja Singh.

I was, however, having trouble with my driver Surinder. Overjoyed at the sight and feel of the broad, smooth road, with no traffic signal or snarl to delay him, he was speeding down at an average of 120 kilometres per hour, a good 20 kilometres per hour above the speed limit. But the threat of modern technology restrained him. The CCTVs installed along the expressway and the mobile patrol made him back off reluctantly. ‘If they have such great roads, they should allow speed on it,’ he grumbled.

As I looked around, there were cars, motorcycles and even bicycles that had taken the expressway to minimise their travel time. ‘I was in the US for two years and this expressway can easily be compared to the roads there. The only difference is that the speed limit on such roads in the US is much higher,’ said the 33-year-old Anshuman Garg, who was taking his family to Agra.

I did not see any mobile patrol along the stretch, but the ride itself was exhilarating till I kept to the road. When I took a detour and got off the expressway to go to Mathura, the difference between it and the broken, narrow, pot-holed roads of Mathura was too stark to be missed.

I did reach Agra in two hours, as promised. But only till the entry point of Agra. The chaos in the city streets thereon proved that the expressway is only an isolated achievement. In fact, the decreased travel time between Delhi and Agra meant a bigger bottleneck on the streets of the city of the Taj Mahal. An increased number of cars poured into Agra at top speed on Saturday and then remained stuck there in a nightmarish traffic snarl. It took me two hours to cover the distance between Delhi and Agra and three hours to reach the Taj Mahal from the entry point of Agra.

Traffic cops and guides in Agra mumbled about the expressway being the reason for the increased crowd in the city. But it was one of the persons at the toll plaza on the expressway who provided me with numbers. ‘I am yet to complete an eight-hour shift and already more than 500 cars have passed through just this one lane,’ he said. The Yamuna Expressway has six lanes. So that means at least 30,000 cars in eight hours if all lanes have seen peak traffic.
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