In a recent notification, the ministry had cited safety concerns over providing extra-widened paved shoulder that provides more space for the vehicles to travel in the opposite direction to reduce the width of the paved shoulders in future projects.
According to the manual of the Indian Road Congress’s 2018 specification, two-lane national highways along the open country with isolated built-up areas must have four-metre-wide shoulders — 2.5 metres of which must be paved and 1.5 metres left earthen. But the latest notification has reduced the paved shoulder to 1.5 metres and earthen shoulder to 1 metre respectively.
It noted that the Ministry’s 1989 circular had stipulated to provide 1.5-metre paved shoulder and 1 metre of the earthen shoulder for plain and rolling terrain. “The shoulders also provide space for emergency stops, recovery space for errant vehicles, clearance to signs and guide rails, overtaking manoeuvres, movement of slow-moving vehicles and other functions,” it added.
The ministry, however, said that the shoulder width for plain and rolling terrain specified in the second revision in 2018 was more than the width specified in the first revision in 2015. “The rationality and justification for the increased shoulder width have not been adequately demonstrated and supported by international practices and standards. This would also not be appropriate from safety consideration, since such extra widened and paved shoulder would provide more space to travel in the opposite direction and may tempt overtaking simultaneously from both the directions leading to an increase in head-on collision and fatalities,” it said, adding the wider shoulder would lead to an increase in the cost of the project.
R Shanmugham, a bus driver in the Villupuram transport corporation said the reduction in the paved shoulder width would only lead to more accidents. “In the two-lane highways, two-wheelers can be seen driving along the paved shoulders keeping away from the main carriageway traffic. If there is reduced paved shoulders, the two-wheelers will come into main carriageway leading to accidents,” he added.