Residents of the twin cities, as well as visitors going to Murree, faced what officials have described as the worst traffic jam en route to the hill station in decades.
The incident led to the Rawalpindi Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Shoaib Khurram Janbaz imposing a four-day ban on the entry of vehicles in one of the most attractive picnic spots to keep traffic under control. “Since the first day of Eid, around 93,000 vehicles have entered Murree, leaving no parking space for more.
The situation forced us to ban the entry of vehicles coming from the other cities except permanent residents of the area and emergency vehicles,” the CTO told APP on Thursday.
Janbaz advised tourists to avoid visiting Murree and reschedule their programme after four days as the entry restriction would remain intact till Sunday, August 3. Traffic wardens, he said, were sending back vehicles coming from other cities at four entry points, including Bhara Kahu, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa link roads.
Growing congestion and lack of proper facilities was blamed for the situation by the visitors, along with violation of traffic rules by some in a bid to reach or go out of the city first to avoid traffic jams.
“The congestion has doubled in the last decade while the government has failed to properly plan the area in view of the urbanisation of Murree,” said Muhammad Subhan, who was among those stranded.
Subhan said they would not be facing this situation had the government constructed parking plazas and widened the roads both leading to and inside Murree.
“Experts had forecast a doomsday-like scenario for the hill resort but it fell on the government’s deaf ears,” commented another tourist, Ali Zohair, a resident of Rawalpindi.
The government had recently spent around Rs1.5 billion on the construction of a parking plaza in Jhika Gali after cutting down thousands of trees but in the end abandoned the project.
Traffic police, after failing to regulate traffic, blocked the entrance of non-Murree residents, however, allowed local and emergency vehicles.
“The roads leading to Murree from Rawalpindi and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa sides have been blocked to regulate traffic. It will be opened once the congestion comes to end,” said Wajid Satti, spokesperson of the Rawalpindi traffic police.
Traffic wardens said they were not expecting that such a high number of people would visit the tourist resort otherwise they would have issued a proper traffic plan.
“The number of visitors is beyond our expectations, otherwise on such occasions, we always issue a proper traffic plan to ensure the smooth movement of vehicles,” said a traffic warden on the condition of anonymity.
The traffic police spokesperson said around 200 traffic wardens were moved to Murree from Rawalpindi to control the situation but the issue had not been resolved till the filing of this report, primarily owing to the sheer size of the traffic jam.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, taking notice of the traffic jam, directed police to facilitate tourists and ensure the smooth movement of vehicles.
Moreover, illegal parking and encroachments aided the massive traffic jams on roads inside Murree and its surrounding areas. Thousands of vehicles remained stuck at the Bhara Kahu toll plaza for several hours on Thursday. Commuters were also reportedly stuck on the road leading to Abbottabad for several hours on Eid day.
“We considered the most secure tourist resort than any other place in the country to visit on Eid but we were forced to spend most of our holiday in our car,” said Sajid Tareen, a resident of Mansehra.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2014.
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