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4th Annual India Roads 2011: Cost Cannot Determine Safety

4th Annual India Roads 2011: Cost Cannot Determine Safety

Roads Jt Secy Raghav Chandra promises to take up road safety this year; says private participation can make a dramatic difference. A report.

The 4th India Roads Conference 2011 (29-20 June) drew the attention of top industry houses, policymakers and independent consultants, researchers and analysts. With a potent and topical theme (road safety), the two-day conference looked at safety aspects from construction, maintenance, design of roads and vehicles, material and allied services. Topics and questions included legal and policy-related, technology and standards that should be adopted, what infrastructure and services are needed and available, and how to finance road safety.

The conference drew attention of policymakers by contending that quality has been ignored in favour of volumes, and road safety at the cost of building a bare adequacy of transport infrastructure: only 46 per cent of roads are paved, and more than 1 lakh people killed each year in road accidents, at a rate of 16.8 per 1,000 people, and costing us Rs 30,000 crore-about three per cent of our GDP. Cities and high­ways are still being constructed sometimes without scientific ways of managing traffic. Lack of a regulatory and governing body was primarily blamed for the astronomical numbers, coupled with lack of public awar­eness-creation, docum­entation and serv­ices infrastructure.

Chief Guest Raghav Chandra, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), promised that his ministry will “take the agenda of road safety to its logical conclusion”. He referred to the recommendations made on this subject by the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) and appealed to the attending industry experts to deliberate on it and provide him with feedback. Cost cannot determine quality, he reiterated, citing the example of the Wallajahpet-Poonamallee National Highway project in Tamil Nadu, where safety norms were about to be compromised (by cutting down the pro­vision of a service road) to fit the pro­ject into the budget-the PPP Appraisal Committee had indicated that the cost of Rs 13 crore per km was too high and recommended that it be reduced to Rs 10 per km. After NHAI ambiguously cleared the project, the Cabinet Secretariat intervened and that safety compromise was averted.

Conference Chair S Sundar, a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and former Secretary, Ministry of Surface Transport, Government of India, who had also chaired the Sundar Committee on Road Safety and Traffic Management, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, reiterated the correlation between traffic growth and road fatalities, and lamented the lack of initiative on a road safety policy in India-as in many other developing countries. “Forgiving roads can be achieved” he said, “if safety standards are set, crash investigation data is made available.” As his committee had done before, Sundar urged the ministry to establish a single agency-the National Safety Fund and Board-to govern and regulate road safety. States should commit to annual, quantified actionables in road safety,
he recommended.


At the end of the conference, a summary was provided by Conference Co-Chair DP Gupta, Retired Director General, Road Development, and Additional Secretary, Government of India:
1) Road safety has become an issue of critical importance and urgency requiring attention from all stake holders. As a shared responsibility MORTH has already introduced a bill in the Parliament to create road safety and traffic management board as an umbrella in this direction, this needs to be expedited.
2) Major areas of attention can be grouped into engineering majors for roads and vehicle designs incorporating safety features.  
3) Education and awareness, enfo­rcement, emergency medical care, pilot projects like the safe corridor development prog­ra­mme planned for implemen­tation in Karnataka need to be scaled up.
4) Industry-academic synergy is required, with facilitation supp­ort from the government.  
5) Centres of excellence in R&D for road safety covering both vehicle design and road engin­eering need to be created and strengthened, with emphasis on emp­irical research.
6) Enhanced awareness campaigns with media support, initiatives by Karnataka and International Road Federation (IRF) are good examples. There is a need to cover awareness to 'political bosses' so that it becomes a part of the political agenda.
7) Accident data formats investigations for intervening factors contributing to accidents and a mechanism for con­tinuous risk analysis should be in place.  
8) Knowledge creation on good practices being adopted by several agencies should be disseminated among all stakeholders. We should benefit from documented good practices for imp­roving road safety.
9) Emphasis be laid on forgiving roads, PPP projects, road safety audit is being insisted. The recommendations arising out of such audits should be duly considered by the government and its agencies. Remedial actions taken so as to enhance road safety on ground.  
10) Geometric deficiencies on existing ro­ads be identified and removed as a pri­ority. RSC can also help in identifying stretches with such deficiencies.
11) Safety of workers and road users in construction work zones should receive special attention from contractors and concessionaires. The engineering majors for road safety should be an integral part of the DPR and there should be no compromise on safety measures on implementation of projects.
12) Post accident emergency care should be covered as inclusive trauma care system on our roads.  
13) Training of manpower for trauma centres needs to be executed and increased in the numbers of trauma centres. Information, education, communication strategies should be mandated to be a part of hospital infrastructure.  
14) ITS based technologies should be encouraged and promoted by the enforcement agencies to enhance the action of traffic violations.

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