Why Delhi's traffic lights go on the blink

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) Dysfunctional signals that cause huge traffic snarls add to the rain woes in Delhi despite crores of rupees being spent to improve the capital's traffic regulation system. And the whole issue boils down to poor maintenance and outdated systems.

The capital has about 800 traffic signals but within minutes of a downpour, many of them go on the blink, causing serpentine jams, traffic chaos and teeth-gashing frustration for motorists.

As to why this happens, a traffic police inspector said that many signals are outdated, and when water seeps into the cable system, or there is a electricity failure, it takes time for repairs to be effected as there is no inverter or power back-up.

"Most of the traffic signals are old and they stop functioning when rain water seeps into the transmission cables. Although the life of each traffic signal is seven to eight years, here we repair them and keep them for over 15 years," the inspector admitted to IANS, not wishing to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

However, another traffic police officer said malfunctions had significantly reduced.

"Only seven to eight percent of the traffic signals become defunct during rains. We have repaired about 100 traffic lights twice which were not working before the monsoon started. We will completely change all dysfunctional traffic signals," Anil Shukla, additional commissioner of police (Traffic), assured IANS.

Shukla added a list of traffic signals which need to be replaced has been drawn up. Apart from this, the Delhi Traffic Police is planning to provide a battery back-up facility for the signals.

"The battery back-up facility is there in Bangalore. We are planning to come up with a similar system in Delhi as well," Shukla promised.

Onix, a private company that maintains traffic signals in Delhi, said power cables are worn out at many places, thus making traffic lights dysfunctional.

"Signal faults occur during the monsoon due to waterlogging. In many areas, the drains get choked. The old equipment immediately goes on the blink. The electricians have to wait for the water to drain out as there is the danger of electrocution," an Onix official told IANS, pleading anonymity.

However, contractors claimed that as compared to last year, instances of traffic light outages had come down.

"Till last year, at least 300 signals and blinkers at various intersections used to stop functioning during the rainy season. This year, there were complaints only about 70 signals had complaints," one contractor boasted.

Experts say that lack of coordination between the traffic police and the private contractors leads to the malfunctioning of traffic signals.

"Signals are the lifeline of a city, just a pre-monsoon survey by the contractors is not enough. The contractors should conduct weekly check-ups to ensure that signals are working. For example, for 10 years now, a traffic signal near the PVR Cinema intersection in Saket hasn't been working. Doesn't this prove the lackadaisical approach of the traffic police and the contractors?" asked T.K. Malhotra, a member of the United Traffic & Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC).

"Replacing the signals will be just a eyewash. Traffic officials should upgrade the hardware and new underground cables should be laid so that there are no failures even during a heavy downpour," Malhotra told IANS.

(Prathiba Raju can be contacted at prathiba.r@ians.in)

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