I couldn’t make this year’s September Critical Mass as I was away in India. Through work, I’m lucky enough to get to spend time with my colleagues at the Technopark in Trivandrum.
I’ve been to Trivandrum a number of times now, and have seen much change since I first visited, back in 2011. Like much of India, the massive expansion in jobs and wealth shows no sign of stopping, and things have changed a lot since I was last here in 2015.
The change is particularly apparent on the roads. The last time I talked about how the road to the Technopark was choked with traffic as the infrastructure struggled to cope with the demand.
This demand is partly due to a huge influx of people, moving to Trivandrum for work. It is also due to a massive increase in car and motorbike ownership, with the middle classes abandoning bikes and public transport for motor vehicles.
Another rarity on the roads now is the Hindustan Ambassador, which you used to see everywhere. Since production ended in 2014, the increase in the number of foreign cars and tighter pollution controls, the number of Ambassadors has dropped dramatically. We probably only saw about fifteen during our whole visit.
When I was last here, there was talk of construction of a new container port and widening of State Highway 66. On my return visit in September 2017, the construction of the widened highway is very much in progress, with large sections of the road complete, while other sections are still being built.
The process of widening somewhat different to what you’d experience in the UK. Typically in the UK, construction would start at one end and the road wouldn’t open to traffic until the work is complete.
On State Highway 66, it was a very different experience. Going to the Technopark, you switch between sections of newly completed dual carriageways to the existing narrow single carriageway roads. This happens a number of times in quite a short distance.
Already, it’s clear to see the impact of the widened road. Traffic certainly moves quicker than it used to and it’s a safer experience overall. Though I doubt it’ll take too long for the new road to fill up again as demand increases. Widening the road has taken away some of the intimacy and character of the route, though I suspect many locals think this is a small price to pay.