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Guardrails, more hazard than help on New Town roads

They were difficult to spot from a few metres away, as the blue-and-white paint had faded and was peeling off in places

By Snehal Sengupta in Calcutta

  • Published 15.11.19, 1:05 AM
  • Updated 15.11.19, 1:05 AM
Guardrails placed on the Salt Lake-bound flank of Major Arterial Road in New Town, close to the spot where a Honda City met with an accident that killed three teenagers early on Tuesday
Guardrails placed on the Salt Lake-bound flank of Major Arterial Road in New Town, close to the spot where a Honda City met with an accident that killed three teenagers early on Tuesday Picture by Snehal Sengupta

Guardrails painted in blue and white that police set up in the middle of roads in New Town to slow down vehicles and check accidents are more of a traffic hazard as they are barely visible from a distance, said those who drive through the arterial road of the township.

Metro spotted several such guardrails on Major Arterial Road (MAR) in New Town on Thursday. Most of them were difficult to spot from a few metres away, let alone from a distance, as the blue-and-white paint had faded and was peeling off in places.

This newspaper reported on Thursday that the Bidhannagar commissionerate on Wednesday had placed five iron guardrails in a zig-zag fashion near the spot on MAR after a speeding Honda City met with a fatal accident early on Tuesday.

An officer of the commissionerate’s traffic wing said that the guardrails often get covered in dust and grime of the road that prevents drivers from identifying them from a distance.

“Although we fix reflective tapes on the guardrails so that they light up when a vehicle’s headlight beam falls on it, often the tapes get covered in a thick layer of dust rendering them nearly useless. We are now going to fix red LED beacons that blink at night to warn motorists on all of them,” the officer said.

Most of the iron guardrails were coated in a thick layer of dust and some only had remnants of paint left interspersed with large patches of rust.

They easily blend into the backdrop of trees and shrubs planted along the median divider.

Across the city, the guardrails placed on the roads are painted in blue and white, which may not be visible under the blue sky while driving down long stretches, as one tends to see through the gaps in its vertical rods.

A few of them had “Go Slow” written in English and Bengali on the reflective surface. On most, the red reflectors fixed on them had broken.

Several broken guardrails were seen dumped on the roadside and on the dividers.

“They are very difficult to spot. At night the situation worsens as they suddenly loom up right in front, forcing a motorist to either hit the brakes hard or swerve in order to avoid hitting one,” said Tanisha Bhattacharya, who lives in New Town.

The Indian Road Congress (IRC) in its guidebook specifies three types of guardrails — one for pedestrians, median dividers and the moveable ones mounted on wheels. There are specifications laid down for each.

The moveable guardrails, engineers familiar with the IRC norms said, should be in black and yellow.

At night, when fog settles, drivers often spot the guardrails at the last minute and have to brake suddenly.

“Ideally apart from the yellow-and-black paint scheme, the pipes of the guardrails should be wrapped in prismatic reflective sheets so that the guardrail glows in the dark and can be seen at night,” said an engineer of the traffic and transport department.

An officer in the transport department said that engineers usually lay down specifications for moveable guardrails while disbursing money to districts and police commissionerates to buy “traffic furniture”.

“The length should be 2.86 metres and the height 1.78 metres. The distance between the vertical rods can’t be more than five inches,” he said.

Crash probe

An officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate said that the blood test report of the driver of the Honda City had not reached them yet.

“The survivors had told us that they had consumed alcohol before heading out in the car for a spin. We are waiting for the medical report of the driver. If needed we will slap drink driving charges,” said the officer.

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