Theft of crash barriers rings alarm

The Telegraph

Kalimpong, Nov. 4: The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is worried over the stealing of iron crash barriers that it has put up on the curvy stretches of NH31A which are prone to accidents. The highway is the main road link between Siliguri and Kalimpong/Sikkim.

In a letter to Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta, the BRO has urged the administration to put an end to the incidents of theft to ensure the safety of hundreds of motorists who use the busy highway every day.

The BRO, which maintains the highway, had put up the permanent iron crash barriers at 27th Mile, 29th Mile, and Melli in the Kalimpong sub-division. Similar barricades, they claimed, have been put up in Sikkim as well. Vast stretches of the highway run parallel to the Teesta and in the absence of any protective barriers in the higher gradient, chances that vehicles may skid down into the river. In fact, frequent travellers on the mountainous road with bends at regular intervals were pleased to see the barriers come up.

“Given the many fatal accidents which have been occurring on the road for many years now, I had always wondered why there were no crash barriers or protective parapets on the highway,” said B. Lama, who has been driving buses on the road for over thirty years. However, now that such barriers are being put up, it is unethical for people to steal them.

“I am sure, that these are done by local people, and not criminals, who do not realise, that they are putting the lives of others at risk,” said Raja Rai, a graphic designer who drives down to Siliguri.

BRO sources said their suspicion is that people steal the iron to sell them as scrap. “What we have noticed is that, the people find it easy to steal the horizontal bars, which we have secured to the vertical poles with nuts and bolts. Since the vertical poles are cemented to the ground, they seem to be safe, at least for now,” one of them added.

If the stealing continues, the BRO will find it difficult to put up similar barriers at other vulnerable stretches of the road, the officer said.

Sources in the administration said given that the barriers are located in isolated stretches of the highway, it becomes difficult to keep an eye on them.

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