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The police has introduced 5-10-minute halt at Shimla’s entry points, hoping it will ensure smooth vehicular movement in the city facing acute traffic congestion in the peak tourist season

Shimla, cityscape
On an average, about 12,000 vehicles enter Shimla on weekdays with the number rising to over 26,000 during weekends at the height of the tourist season | Pic: Wikipedia

With the advent of summer signalling the peak tourist season in Shimla, the Queen of the Hills, the police have formulated a strategy to ensure hassle free traffic movement in the city.

The summer peak tourist season in Himachal Pradesh capital usually lasts from April 15 to June 15.

As part of a trial run, the police are stopping for 5-10 minutes vehicles arriving in the town at the entry points — Shoghi for those coming from Chandigarh, Chharabra for those entering from upper Shimla/Kinnaur and Heeranagar for those from Mandi, Kangra and Hamirpur districts — to ensure smooth traffic flow in the city, Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Kumar Gandhi said.

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Identifying bottlenecks

According to police data, about 60,000 vehicles remain parked on the roadsides in the city. On an average, about 12,000 vehicles enter Shimla on weekdays with the number rising to over 26,000 during weekends at the height of the tourist season.

“The flow of traffic goes beyond control at 16 bottlenecks and we are preparing a proposal to set up traffic lights at the three entry points — Shoghi, Chharabra and Heeranagar — that will be activated during rush hours,” Gandhi told PTI.

Halting the traffic at the entry points is the need of the hour for smooth traffic on Cart Road (Circular Road) — the lifeline of Shimla — and to provide uninterrupted access to Victory Tunnel-Sanjauli Road for patients going to the Indira Gandhi Medical College Hospital, he added.

The chaos at Victory Tunnel

An analysis of traffic flow revealed that over 50 vehicles pass through the Victory Tunnel in the heart of the city from the three sides every minute. While about 20 vehicles can cross the tunnel at once, the remaining vehicles lead to traffic congestion.

“The continuous release of over 10 vehicles per minute will ensure smooth traffic in the city and, therefore, the halt at the entry points is an experiment,” Gandhi said.

The holding distance is 100 metres in Chharabra, 150 metres in Heeranagar and 400 metres in Shoghi.

“CCTV cameras have been installed at 16 major road stretches and bifurcations, including Sanjauli, Dhalli, Lift-Victory Tunnel stretch, Victory Tunnel-Lakkar Bazaar stretch, the railway station, New Shimla, Chotta Shimla and the ISBT Crossing,” the police said.

Mixed response

The experiment, however, has evoked mixed responses from commuters.

“Vehicles arriving from Solan were stopped for 20 minutes on Friday. As a result, I was late for office,” said Manish, a regular commuter from Solan.

On the other hand, Rajiv, a local resident, said the town was built for a population of 15,000. “It is now home to over three lakh people and vehicles have also increased manifold. Traffic congestion has become a major issue and one month’s inconvenience is bearable provided there is a permanent solution to the problem,” he said.

A bus driver said, “It used to take me an hour to one-and-a-half hours to reach the bus stand from the suburbs last May. That time has come down to 30 minutes.”

According to the Shimla City Traffic Regulation and Management Plan prepared by the police in February 2021, acute shortage of parking in schools, colleges, hospitals, government and private offices and shopping areas located along the roads, coupled with haphazard parking on narrow roads, was mainly responsible for congestion.

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The then Superintendent of Police Mohit Chawla had pointed out that 1.20 lakh vehicles were registered in the town, which has a parking capacity for 2,500-5,000.

The problem assumed alarming proportions during the tourist rush with 1.43 lakh vehicles crossing the Shoghi barrier from December 24, 2020, to January 3, 2021, alone.

(With Agency inputs)