My Way for the Highway
Have you travelled from Chennai to Bangalore by road? If you haven’t yet, you should drive through the Hosur route to the Garden City for a very scenic and a very smooth ride. Once you clear the crazy city traffic and satiate your appetite by brunching at the Motel Highway at Nazarathpet, its a bumpy ride on a two lane highway to Kancheepuram. But once you hit the Ranipet junction, it is a dream ride all the way up to Krishnagiri. Its a 6-lane highway with sparse traffic and the slow moving trucks generally tend to keep to the left most lane leaving the right lane open for zipping. The route is very scenic to boot. Driving past the green Jawaadu Hills, you wonder if world-class roads have indeed come to India. But…..wait a minute….a pleasurable driving experience is not just a smooth, wide road, isn’t it? What else is missing? Actually when you think about it, a number of things come to mind. Here is a wishlist for a truly great highway trip:
Just as Shakespeare said “All the world is my stage”, Indian highway travellers claim “All the open space is my toilet” 🙁 It is a funny sighting when you spot a sparkly BMW parked on the side of the road where the cool driver of the car has gotten off to take a leak behind a bush. Women just have to go without drinking anything during long drives or go in search of highway motels that graciously offer use of their restroom. It would be a real dream come true if the Ministry of Road transport would take pity on travellers and build toilets along national highways. After all, Swachch Bharat applies to highways too, right?
Auto Repair Shops
Have you ever had a tyre burst on a highway and wondered how to fix it? If you are a hands on person that can change a spare, good for you. If not, one is left stranded on a highway frantically making a call or wishing for a good Samaritan to help you out. Repair shops on the roadside know very well to exploit your predicament and charge exorbitantly for shoddy services. Memberships with organizations like the AASI promise roadside breakdown assistance but the speed of service leaves a lot to be desired. So, this takes top priority on our wishlist – a reliable roadside assistance program and reputed auto repair shops along the highway.
It costs close to Rs 400 in toll fee alone to get to the TN-Karnataka border from Chennai by road. God forbid, if one runs out of cash to pay these tollbooths you are stuck with nowhere to go for cash unless you go off road and drive into a town searching for an ATM. It would be wonderful to have ATMs at every gas station or rest area for the benefit of the cash strapped.
Smart Cards for Highway Tolls
Just as those annoying speed breakers within the city, the toll booths are the speed breakers on highways. It doesn’t matter if you have right change, you still have to wait behind that carbon monoxide spewing truck at every toll booth. It takes an average of 5-6 minutes on the highway toll booths and they certainly add up to a good half hour lost before you complete a 5 hour journey. If cars could have smart cards that could be recharged at gas stations and have a dedicated “Smart Card Only” drive through lane at these toll booths, motorists can save on precious time. Also saves the hassle of looking for the right change.
There are restaurants and dhabas that offer some food choice to the travellers but what is sorely lacking are Convenience Stores. If you are travelling with a child in the car that needs a spare nappy or a nauseous friend that needs a ginger drink, there is literally nowhere to go. Some gas stations offer a mini variety of a store but such locations are few.
The Ministry of Road Transport mentioned a Highway Amenities Program in one of its release in September 2015 and this needed to be cleared by one of those high powered committees. If and when this proposal will be implemented will be anyone’s guess.
If you have an item to add to this wishlist, please comment below.