Traffic is one of the major problems in Mumbai. It is often, that an half an hour drive converts into hours spent in the traffic, waiting for it to clear off. In cities like Delhi, metro covers the farthest of areas and has eased traffic considerably. Mumbai too, is on its way to joining areas of the city through metro, however, for now its construction work is only adding up as another reason for the excessive traffic woes in the city. In an attempt to relieve WEH of traffic congestion, on 25th August, Chanda Jadhav from BMC issued a letter to Nesco to stop exhibitions on its premises till the metro work is complete. Implications of such an action were discussed amongst the concerned parties. Exhibitions are a collective effort of many parties and stakeholders. In a scenario of any exhibition being cancelled, it leads to huge business losses of the organisers, participating exhibitors, venue, concerned industry and tourism, and above all, lots of indirect taxes to the government! It would also inflict adversely on the reputation of the country, since every major exhibition has a good proportion of international participation.
Exhibition Showcase contacted BEC to get their view on the notice and the traffic congestion problem. There was a meeting of senior executives held on 27th August regarding the notice and BMC has revoked the notice. In conversation with Krishna Patel, Managing director at Nesco, excerpts;
ES: How many events does BEC host in an year, on average?
Krishna: BEC hosts about 180 events in an year, which includes Exhibitions and MICE Events.
ES: There have been issues of traffic congestion during the show days at BEC. What is your comment on the criticality of this issue?
Krishna: At BEC, out of 365 days in a year, for 200 days halls remain vacant, which is an occupancy trait of most of the Expo Centers. Out of the remaining 165 days, there are only 5-6 “mega” shows which occupy all halls and have a comparatively higher visitor density. This adds up to about 15 days in a year, when the traffic is more. During all the remaining days, there is no problem with traffic congestion and all vehicles are accommodated within BEC parking lots.
ES: Has the traffic situation worsened because of the construction work of the Metro? Can you share something about this in detail?
Krishna: Yes, Metro Construction work is the major reason for traffic issues. Extensive MMRDA works are ongoing. All these areas where works are in progress, there are excessive traffic issues and general inconvenience to the public. Irrespective of exhibitions taking place at the BEC, there is increased traffic on the WEH due to metro work; however most of it accumulates a considerable distance after the BEC. Even when construction work is completed, barricades are not removed.
ES: It is also said that the situation worsens when BEC has booked the entire halls on a given day. What is your comment on this?
Krishna: During those 5-6 “mega” shows the number of vehicles accessing BEC does increase, however during smaller shows, all vehicles are parked within the campus. During these 5-6 mega shows BEC arranges parking for 2500 cars: 1000 cars in BMC/Lodha parking building and 1500 cars in SRPF Grounds. For these exhibitions, BEC arranges for several traffic wardens, security guards and police personnel to closely monitor the traffic.
ES: According to you, what can be the possible solution of this issue?
Krishna: It is possible to improve traffic flow even when Metro work is going on. Following are some of the steps that can be taken:
Service roads: There are two 18 m service roads: the one on east side is meant for North-South traffic, while the one on west side (adjoining Nesco boundary wall) is meant for South-North traffic. However, the West side South-North service road is used for both N-S and S-N traffic, divided in two roads of 9 met. each. At the entry point alongside Silver Metropolis the 9 met. S-N space is further used for car parking and by several vendors. This continues to create traffic issues even when there are no exhibitions. Hence South-North service road should be made one way. There is an opening between WEH and service road just after Nesco gate 2 which leads to vehicles taking left immediately after coming down from the JVLR flyover. This creates a huge bottleneck while merging with vehicles coming from underneath the flyover. This opening must be closed immediately.
Signages on the WEH before the Jogeshwari flyover will help divert the vehicle traffic wanting to access Nesco Centerv/Hub Mall/Nirlon/Mrinaltai Gore Flyover, to go below flyover and on the service road. This could reduce the vehicles taking JVLR flyover and thereby maintain the traffic equilibrium on the WEH.
Throughout the service road a large number of motor cycles, autorikshaws and taxis get parked amongst several hawkers. This road must be made a No-Parking and No-Hawking Zone immediately. Section of service road from JVLR signal to Silver Metropolis needs to be completed. Service road from Hub Mall to Aarey Petrol Pump is narrow in width and needs to be widened. It also has diversion. Traffic Signal near Silver Metropolis has uneven surface thus reducing the speed of vehicles. Proper surfacing will help improve vehicle movement at this junction. Severe Potholes opp. Silver Metrolpolis, Nesco Center, Hub mall and the Jay coach junction are creating a lot of traffic slow-down.
ES: A BMC official released a letter of warning to close down the exhibition operations till the Metro work is over. This was later revoked by the BMC itself. Can you highlight and elaborate on the complete scenario and the turn of events, as and when they occurred?
Krishna: From our understanding, perhaps the BMC official may have misunderstood her perimeter of authority and erroneously issued this said notice. It seemed to come to us as quiet a surprise, as the motion did not follow any due process of law.
ES: There was a meeting of senior executives of Nesco on Monday. What was deliberated upon?
Krishna: Like I said, the notice came as quite a surprise for us and this meeting was to discuss our immediate course of action.
ES: What was the reaction of the organizers and stakeholders to this issue? Have you kept them in proper loop about the entire scenario?
Krishna: At least 9 exhibitions had been scheduled at the centre from 27th till September. Organizers and stakeholders were initially surprised to learn of the news which was disseminated on Monday. If the notice were to be followed through, it would have hampered the organizer’s businesses and reputation. On Tuesday when the initial letter was revoked, they were relieved.
ES: Have we arrived at a permanent solution to this issue? How does the future look like?
Krishna: The said notice which directed the stoppage of BEC was reversed the very same day. We do not anticipate further issues in this regard. The BEC operates with all required approvals; future is clear – We will continue to expand and operate.
ES: Are there going to be any changes in the actual schedule?
Krishna: Business as usual. The shows will go on the way they were planned.
ES: Do you foresee any benefits to BEC accruing out of the Metro work completion in 2019?
Krishna: The metro would play a vital role in improving mobility to and fro BEC. There shall be less strain on the roads and faster travel time for passengers.
ES: Any other comments on this issue?
Krishna: There are certainly other measures that should be taken up by the concerned authorities to solve the problem of traffic congestion. Exhibitions are an integral part of the economy and contribute largely to it. Therefore, a decision to close off one of the major exhibition and convention venues of country must not be made in haste. The importance of the MICE industry should be better acknowledged by the government of India, for an issue like this to not arise again.