Archive for the ‘India transport’ Category

Up North day 8, part one – Srinigar

June 24, 2013
Goats overtaking; petrol tankers 1 ft from precipice edge.

Goats overtaking; petrol tankers 1 ft from precipice edge.

An early start was required from Mulbeck, to ensure passage over the Zoji La before it is closed to traffic from our direction at 10am. Although not a high pass by the standards of others we have been over, the road is terrible. It isn’t a road, really, just a track. The goats want to know what the cars and lorries are doing on it.

So at 5am we departed Mulbeck, stopping for breakfast in Drass (the second coldest inhabited place on earth) before heading up the pass.

The scenery is lovely, with the barrenness of Zanskar giving way to meadows and flowers, more reminiscent of Switzerland than India. This of course means lots of livestock on the road, including goats, sheep, ponies and donkeys, moving to summer grazing.

Hold ups on the road can be numerous, as it is only just wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Bear in mind there’s always a sheer drop one side. And no safety barriers.

First we got held because of a river overflowing the road. Motorbikes were being walked through the water by two people at a time and were still struggling to stay upright.

Further up, we encountered a recent avalanche, where the snow had been cut through to clear the road. We finally reached a division into an upper and lower road. We were directed upwards, and promptly ran into a jam. Our driver rather bravely decided to turn round – not easy on a narrow track above a precipice, however we managed it. However we didn’t get very far before getting stuck on a corner with lorries coming the other way. Just when we were wondering how to progress, a herd of goats and sheep arrived, weaving their way round and sometimes under vehicles. So no one was going anywhere until they passed. We did eventually get on to the lower road, and discovered the cause of the chaos. On the lower road a lorry had broken down, blocking the pass for heavy traffic from the Srinagar end. So only light traffic could pass from either way, so all lorries were on the upper road and couldn’t get past each other.

The lower road was not without its adventures. Our driver stopped at one point because there was a landslide starting just above us. Rocks and dust were coming down, but we got past.

Eventually the road improved and we fought our way into Srinagar, past a road-blocking demonstration about water supply, and a toll in a village.

Glad to have made it.10 Mulbeck- Sonamarg blog(6)

The long and winding goat track. Zoji La

The long and winding goat track. Zoji La


Road safety, Goan style

August 25, 2012

Road safety week is on the horizon. Anyone who has been to India will know how important the message of the said week is, and how unlikely it is to be heeded. Goa’s roads see getting on for a death a day. However the Transport Department has come up with a novel solution. Read on, extracted from The Herald, an English language Goan newspaper, and try to imagine the chaos the solution is going to bring.

PANJIM: The transport department will be enforcing a compulsory 10 minute “time for reflection and introspection” for all drivers in vehicles after the celebrations of road safety week, which starts September 3.

“For 10 minutes each and every vehicle in the state will be made to stop and think for 10 minutes,” transport director Arun Dessai told news persons.

He, however, did not say when the day would be implemented but said that they have already requisitioned for the services of over 2500 people including road safety patrols, traffic wardens as well as NSS students of various colleges for this purpose.

“If people can celebrate Earth Hour then why not 10 minutes for road safety?” he questioned.

The modus operandi will involve a squad of transport department swooping down on a group of vehicles and educating them for a whole 10 mins on road safety. They plan to cover the whole state.

The department also has a road safety bus in its possession, which it has been using to educate drivers especially drivers of commercial vehicles on aspects of road safety.

“The bus shows several videos and film clips on road safety, clips on sufferings of families after the accident and post accident trauma and stress of the families especially those who have lost their sole bread earner,” Arun Dessai said, adding that the clippings also show scenes of accident and animations of how they could have been avoided.

He said the bus has already been in demand with the North Goa truckers association who have asked that the bus be brought for the education of their drivers.

“Seeing these films will now be compulsory for all those who are applying for a drivers licence,” Dessai disclosed

About 305 road fatalities were reported in Goa in 2011,  a slight dip from the 327 it witnessed in 2010.

India has just 1% of the world’s traffic population but 9% of the world’s traffic related fatalities.

Life is cheap

May 23, 2012

Read in the papers today of a couple who were crossing railway tracks at Thakurli Station on the outskirts of Bombay. They decided not to use the passenger overbridge because of heavy luggage. They waited for the train to pass and then walked to their deaths into the path of a train coming from the other direction. This happened to a schoolgirl here in Margao a couple of years ago, so in a way not that newsworthy.

What astonished us was the addendum to the story:


Thakurli is a notorious accident spot, where 16 accidents have been reported in the last five months alone. Indeed, the statistics of the three railway stations within the jurisdiction of the Dombivli GRP (Railway Police) in the last five months are grim: fifty deaths have taken place here, of which 24 were at Kopar railway station, 16 at Thakurli and 10 at Dombivli. Another 37 people were injured in railway accidents at these stations. 

10 deaths a month? At only three stations? What is it in the national psyche that prevents any attempt at enforcement of life saving laws? Or from another angle, what is it in the national psyche that allows so many people to be stupid enough to ignore the laws. Is it as simple as ‘Life is cheap’?

Vorsprung durch Technik – Making an Audi India proof

March 28, 2012

Interview in the Goan Herald newspaper today, where the head of Audi in India explained how they were forced to adapt their cars for the Indian market.

Step one – need a new horn. Indian drivers use their horns more in a week than Germans do in a year, and fitting the standard European horn meant it wore out in a couple of weeks and was not suitably loud. So a new super strengthened, louder animal was required.

Step two – there is the little matter of chauffeur-driven cars. As many Indians have drivers, it was necessary to put more controls ‘in the back seat’. We assume he meant distractions such as air conditioning, CD player, radio etc, satnav, electric window switches and other playthings as opposed to bare necessities; steering wheel, brakes, clutch and gear lever.

Unfortunately he didn’t mention whether they had made other changes. Have they altered the ride height to cope with India’s mountainous speed breakers and cavernous pot holes? Have they done away with indicators, rear view mirrors, speedometers and engine warning lights, because Indian drivers generally don’t use them? Do Audis in India still have a dip switch on the headlights (in India headlights are usually full beam or off)? We wonders, we wonders.

Madam is Ambi 4000

March 17, 2012

 Aswe have a white skin we are often assailed by taxi drivers as we walk around town, not so much in Margao now, we are familiar faces. It used to be a nuisance and the approach always felt  a little aggressive. Not anymore, as we often don’t acknowledge the approach and this without feeling rude.

Alison was walking in Panjim and accosted by a driver. His mates immediately admonished him with the words, ‘Not this one. Madam is Ambi 4000.’

To travel to Panjim for her Monday clinic she uses our tame taxi driver, Prakash. His normal run is more like a bus service and he crams as many people in as possible (up to nine) and ferries them between Margao and Colva, about 6 kilometers.His car? An ancient battered black and yellow Ambassador, affectionately known as an Ambi. Registration number? 4000.

Motoring update

March 17, 2012

At the Royal Enfield, very modern showrooms, I was trying to buy a throttle cable. It had broken earlier in the day. 15 minutes late opening, three people to locate the throttle cables (a very common failing on Enfield bikes) and then not able to supply the correct one for Hari Enfield. Never mind, I fiddled and fitted it and it works.
The partial engine rebuild has worked very well; improved pulling power and higher speed probably 70 mph tops, but speedometer has never worked due to no standard front forks, so I don’t know. But the irritating clattering continues unabated making Hari sound like like a bag of nails, at least from the rider’s position. Not so bad for pillion or pedestrians, apparently. So he’s back after another week away while a fourth specialist mechanic has had another go. Better for the first 5ks, but the clatter is returning.

Appalling driving continues to worsen as do the deteriorating roads. New vehicles are selling like hot cakes, but no new roads or parking provision for them. The police still do not, cannot or will not enforce even the most flagrant lawbreakers. The most recent horror story is of a bus rolling down a ferry slipway into the river resulting in six deaths. Reports tell us the conductor was driving. The government cancelled the Goa Carnival which is enjoyed every year by thousands of tourists and locals. This current government is in for a hiding at the upcoming elections and they hope for a sympathy vote by cancelling the carnival. That’ll backfire.
In Delhi, a young businessman managed to kill himself in a high speed Lamborghini crash, door ripped off, no seat belt.

Indian Grand Prix

October 29, 2011

During the run-up to the start of this Sunday’s first FI in India the authorities were testing emergency service response in event of a crash causing life-threatening injuries to a driver.

All was going well until the ambulance driver couldn’t find his way to the hospital. The official who was in the role of the injured driver had to tell him to give up the search as the delay would have caused him to dead on arrival.

Only in India?