Much more needs to be done to avoid road accidents: Gadkari

The road transport and highways minister also said that it is his dream to depose petrol and diesel from the country by shifting to other means of transport like electric buses and airboats.

Katra: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday said much more needs to be done to avoid road accidents, which claim the lives of about 1.5 lakh people annually across the country.

The road transport and highways minister also said that it is his dream to depose petrol and diesel from the country by shifting to other means of transport like electric buses and airboats.

“Road safety is an important issue and much more needs to be done (to avoid accidents)…Every year five lakh accidents take place (in the country) and 1.5 lakh people lose their lives besides three percent of the GDP goes into it,” the minister told reporters here.

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Flanked by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Union ministers Jitendra Singh and Gen V K Singh, Gadkari said India is sadly ranked highest in road accidents in the world and “we are making continuous efforts to improve road safety”.

“Various measures have already been taken like road engineering, automobile engineering, strict enforcement of new Act and improving blackspots but still much more needs to be done,” he said.

The highways minister also said that he has no intention to retire from active politics. “I am running various projects for farmers with a turnover of Rs 2,500 crore and which generated 20,000 jobs. These are related to organic farming, bio-fuels, handloom and handicrafts and my remark that I want to give more time into it was unfortunately misconstrued as my plan to retire from politics.”

Gadkari, who was here on a four-day tour to inspect various highway projects including tunnels, said it was his dream to depose petrol and diesel from the country by introducing electric vehicles and airboats run on water.

He said his wish is to see the completion of the four-lane Greenfield expressway, connecting Delhi-Katra via Amritsar, before the general elections next year.

“After completion of the project, I believe nobody will come to Vaishno Devi shrine by air as you will cover Delhi-Amritsar distance in four hours, Delhi-Katra in six hours and Delhi-Srinagar in eight hours,” the minister said.

There will be no air service between Delhi and Dehradun after December as the distance between the two destinations will be reduced to just two hours, he added.

“The greenfield expressway project is being completed at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore and the expected date for its completion is December next year. However, we want it to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister in February or March before the announcement of the general elections,” he said.

Gadkari said he has put a suggestion for starting an air-conditioned electric luxury double-decker coach service on Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

“Diesel buses cost Rs 115 per km, while the electric non-AC buses cost Rs 39 and AC buses Rs 41 for the same distance. The passengers will also be provided snacks, and tea, and can enjoy comfortable business seats.”

“The electric bus tickets will be 25 percent lower than what we are paying at present. If you want to run the service, come forward or otherwise I will facilitate private players interested in running the service,” he said.

Giving credit to the road construction agencies, workers, engineers and labourers for braving various challenges in undertaking the difficult job, he said Jammu-Srinagar national highway goes through very problematic patches.

“The 40-km Ramban-Banihal stretch of the highway is the most difficult phase of the four-laning project due to the threat of landslides, mudslides and shooting stones. We have completed the 10 km road and except Maroog-Digdole tunnel, the rest of the 30 km of this stretch will be completed by January next year,” he added.

He also highlighted the work on another corridor Jammu-Chenani-Doda-Kishtwar and Anantnag – and said the work being undertaken by National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is progressing smoothly.

“NHIDCL came into existence after we made a request to the Prime Minister that hilly regions like Arunachal, Meghalaya, Tripura, Uttrakhand, Himachal, Kashmir and Northeast areas are not getting proper attention,” he said.

He said work is also progressing smoothly on a third corridor Jammu-Akhnoor-Rajouri-Poonch.

The minister also announced plans for the construction of a tunnel between Sheshnag and Panjtarni on the Amarnath route, which will reduce the annual yatra time from the current three days to just nine hours.

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