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On August 9th, early morning as I was nearing Greater Noida, the whole expressway was blocked, cars were parked on the ‘expressway’ in a very haphazard manner. One cannot imagine anywhere in the world such an in-disciplined way of parking on an expressway, where traffic is permitted to move at 120Kmph! Very soon I realized as I approached the new fly-over (has been new for the last few months) that takes off the Greater Noida-Agra Yamuna expressway, as temporary pandals have been erected, festooned with flowers and flowing sheer fabrics. I got to know that our ‘beloved’ young CM of UP, Akhilesh Yadav, is going to inaugurate the expressway. I did see huge crowds with the cars parked all over the road, but the security was not as ‘z’ as it would be for a CM.

The Clove Take off at the entrance of Yamuna expressway; this photo courtesy - YEIDA
The Clove Take off at the entrance of Yamuna expressway; this photo courtesy – YEIDA

I realized the next day through the newspapers that our CM has gone Hi-tech, as he inaugurated the expressway virtually! Irony, the CM inaugurates with technology, but neither his brethren have basic courtesies of parking, nor the traffic policemen were mindful of their duties. Many times, the behaviour of traffic policemen makes me wonder whether they themselves are aware of the traffic rules and the regulations.

I read in the newspaper that the expressway is toll free till our Independence day, and I thought ‘why not we experience ‘the world class’ expressway. Indira and Mallika jumped at the idea, as they have been eager to go to Fatehpur Sikhri and visit the Dargah, where they sought for a sibling for Mallika two years ago. They wanted to pay respects on the arrival of Svwara, and untie the knots!

So, with the plan of quick visit to the TAJ, then heading to Fetehpur Sikhri, on August 11th, the saturday, early morning, we set on a drive. Our rath sarathi (driver), Vishal, was also very excited. We left around 9:00am and headed towards the expressway, and reached the entrance of the expressway after covering 30kms from home. We could see, many cars heading towards the entrance, where the cars were slowing down and realized that a pamphlet with the route map was being distributed. We just grabbed one and headed on the expressway.

The route map of the Yamuna expressway; this photo courtesy - YEIDA
The route map of the Yamuna expressway; this photo courtesy – YEIDA

Here is the photo-essay of that voyage!

It was pouring as we neared the express way
It was pouring as we neared the express way
The distances declared as we move into the expressway
The distances declared as we move into the expressway
Happy to click on the shoulder of the expressway. fresh from rains!
Happy to click on the shoulder of the expressway. fresh from rains!
First of the three toll gates at 38kms from the Clove flyover
First of the three toll gates at 38kms from the Clove flyover

Toll Rates

Toll will be charged at three points – at 38 km, 95 km and 150 km from Greater Noida. Cars and jeeps will be charged Rs 2.10/km and mini-buses Rs 3.23/km as toll. Buses and Trucks will pay Rs. 6.60/km. Charges for heavy vehicles will be Rs. 10.10/km. However, NO-TOLL will be charged from commuters till 15 August 2012. A summary table of toll rates is as below:

Vehicle Category Aligarh Mathura Agra Round Trip
Two wheeler 50 100 150 240
Car/Jeep/Van 100 220 320 510
LCV/Mini-Bus 150 350 500 800
Bus/Truck 300 700 1050 1680
Multi-axle Vehicle 450 1050 1600 2560
7+ axle Vehicle 600 1400 2100 3360

All figures in Rs.

  • Round trip charges are 1.6 time of one way toll within 24 hours.
  • Special discounts for vehicles using the expressway more than 19 times in a month.
Each of the toll plazas has a rest place attached. So on 200kms expressway there are only three rest places
Each of the toll plazas has a rest place attached. So on 200kms expressway there are only three rest places

Neither the users are eager to follow the rules of parking, courteous usage of the rest places, nor the YEIDA know how to manage it. With traffic flowing and the rest places flooded by people to release themselves, the upkeep of the rest places was very inadequate. There was no water in any of the three rest places, obviously supply lines fell short of the demand. The users were relieving themselves everywhere and the whole place was stinking! We just took to the wheels and decided to wait till we reach Agra!!

The expressway users used its shoulders for get-togethers, picnics and child play, oblivious of its significance
The expressway users used its shoulders for get-togethers, picnics and child play, oblivious of its significance
Why should we be left behind? Fully loaded
Why should we be left behind? Fully loaded
Great place to quench your thirst for speed
Great place to quench your thirst for speed
We are here to help you, Helpline on Expressway - 1800-102-7777
We are here to help you, Helpline on Expressway – 1800-102-7777
Dangerous ways:Test of speed and stamina for villagers. No crossways
Dangerous ways: Test of speed and stamina for villagers. No crossways
A new playground created for us to entertain ourselves! Which all games!
A new playground created for us to entertain ourselves! Which all games!
A different game! Million stories to share, and lose in one another
A different game! Million stories to share, and lose in one another
It is more like a runway to land, just an undulating one
It is more like a runway to land, just an undulating one

All the way, 200kms, you will not find any undercarriages that takes the traffic from one side to another. In India we do not believe in such easy movements! So what do you see, people coming in wrong directions with headlights on. What a comedy of infrastructure development. Abroad, you will find these every five kilometers facilitating the u-turns.

Indeed it is a runway for different kinds; almost a pile-up happened!
Indeed it is a runway for different kinds; almost a pile-up happened!
Great views of country-side at 100kmph
Great views of country-side at 100kmph
I enjoyed the speeds, sights, breezes and rains, as we traveled
I enjoyed the speeds, sights, breezes and rains, as we traveled
So did Mallika, Indira, ammammai and Svwara as long as the going was smooth
So did Mallika, Indira, ammammai and Svwara as long as the going was smooth

We reached the outskirts of Agra in two-and-half hours as the expressway joins the Agra-Kanpur highway. The merger towards Agra has not yet converged the way it should. So the challenges start there…

Is Agra ready for such an EXPRESSWAY to enter? No. Neither the JP nor the CMs that UP had during the course of the construction of the Express seem to have anything to gain from seeing beyond the Expressway….

If 180kms takes two-and-half hours to cover, the subsequent 5kms to Taj takes another two hours Here is why?

From expressway you land on the donkeyways!
From expressway you land on the donkeyways!
From runway to pot-holed flow-aways!
From runway to pot-holed flow-aways!
You are stuck in such a quagmire, wonder whether you did right coming at all
You are stuck in such a quagmire, wonder whether you did right coming at all

Along with a couple of policemen, and fellow users of the expressway, I jumped into managing the traffic at a junction. Then police reinforcement appeared. While now the police would take at least an hour to streamline, a person like me with a camera in hand, makes use of these hours capturing interesting stuff around by foot…

A road-side hair cutting saloon inviting
A road-side hair cutting saloon inviting
It is siesta time, even when traffic chaos prevails
It is siesta time, even when traffic chaos prevails
But is funtime for children, playing under the bridge by Yamuna
But is funtime for children, playing under the bridge by Yamuna

Finally, the junction is breathing a little and our vehicle also manages to come out of the jam… I hopped into the car and crossed the bridge over the Yamuna, only to find another Jam. When Indira asked a passenger in the bus standing next to us, “Brother, how far is Taj?”. He retorted, “By distance 1.5kms, by time 10days….hahaha”

Waiting for the traffic to move!
Waiting for the traffic to move!

So the Taj was elusive, as distant as it was….

The elusive mansion
The elusive mansion
The elusive mausoleum
The elusive mausoleum

Our time schedules having gone haywire, we quickly sped towards the Fatehpur Sikhri at 2pm, so that our appointment with the Chisthi Dargah is respected!

“The Yamuna Expressway has come as a curse for the citizens of Agra who are now being faced with perennial traffic jams lasting for 5-6 kilometers in the city, making the city’s already poor infrastructure crumble, since the Expressway opened for public last week.

About 25,000 vehicles are plying daily between Greater Noida and Agra, on the 165 kilometer highway, and the vehicle numbers increasing on the weekend stretching till the August 15, 2012” – The Economic Times, Aug 15, 2012

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