Travellers also say that the timings are risky as they have to rush to the next block

Traffic: Commuters plying along the Thimphu-Wangdue highway are complaining about the roadblocks caused by the widening works being carried out by the Department of Roads (DoR).

The problem has been compounded by lack of proper public information on the roadblocks. Commuters say the timings of the road blocks have been changing frequently and that they have to wait at the blocks for hours.

Businessman Kinley was heading to Wangdue from Thimphu after checking the website of the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) for timings of the roadblocks at the Dochula area, when he was stranded for two hours at the area, yesterday afternoon. He said the information on the website showed that the road would be open at 12pm.

“But when I reached here I found that the block will open only at 2pm. I wasted two precious hours,” he said, showing a copy of the time reference paper he had downloaded from the website.

He said getting updates on changes in the timings of roadblocks is not only important for the general public but also for tour and transport operators. He said a lot of people today browse relevant websites for information such as road blocks and other modes of travels.

“Any change in the timing has to be updated immediately on relevant websites and should be announced in media to avoid inconvenience for general public,” he said. “It is very frustrating for us and the passengers to wait for two hours.”

The road closes four times a day between 6am and 5pm.

M.S. Rai, driver of a Khorlo Transport bus heading to Punakha from Thimphu, said it is a big hassle to be stranded for hours at the road blocks. “When we don’t have updated information on timing of the blocks a lot of time is wasted. Even as bus drivers, we don’t have information because it keeps on changing.”

He said traffic management on the sites being widened is also a problem. Lack of adequate traffic personnel at the sites, he said, has created congestion and poses risks to the travellers.

However, RSTA chief transport officer, Karma Pemba, said regular meetings are being held between the RSTA and DoR to ease public hassles at the sites being widened. He said the RSTA has asked DoR to open double-laned roads at the sites so that the risk is reduced and the vehicles don’t get stranded.

“Our people have to be responsible also, they should not rush if they are concerned about their safety and follow traffic rules,” he said. “We request them to follow traffic rules,” he said.

“They should check our websites or call us for information before they plan a journey,” he said.

The RSTA website contains a page titled “road block information”. But when visited, it lacked any information, yesterday.

The chief transport officer said RSTA asks the DoR to provide all updates regarding road blocks so that it can post on its website. He said it is DoR which fixes the timing.

Traffic jam is also a problem as there are no adequate traffic personnel at the road widening sites.

“Sometimes after waiting for hours at the block, we have to sit in another block caused by traffic jams,” a taxi driver heading to Gelephu, Thinley Wangdi said. Thinley Wangdi suggested that a timing board should be placed at the taxi parking and the bus terminal at Lungtenzampa for the passengers and drivers to plan their journeys. “I drove on the same route recently and the block opened at 12pm,” he said.

Another concern is safety of the travellers. The moment the blocks are opened vehicles from both directions rush through so that they can reach the next block in time for its opening.

“If we don’t rush we will be late to reach on the next block at the Lamperi area in the Lobeysa region,” he said. He said the drivers get one and half hours to cross the road widening sites and catch up the opening time at the other end.

A worker at the block site, Damber Dhoj said the road is not manned by traffic police after 7pm. “Quite often traffic jam happens here,” he said.

By MB Subba