Now Agra is just 2 hours drive from Delhi. I’ve visited Agra twice. Both times we started off at dawn to avoid the traffic but nevertheless we ended up driving 7hours. Delhi to Agra road is part of the busy National Highway no.2 which links Delhi to Kolkota. So if you decide on a round trip, you would have to drive 14hours, which is a whole lot of time on a road for a day. Now driving to Agra is as easy as driving to your office.
At 7:50am in the morning, I was already at the Greater Noida Expressway which joins the Yamuna Expressway. It was one of most forlorn road in Delhi NCR. People would just go there for the thrill of speed. Today the road is busy even as early as 8am in the morning. It was weekend and you thought the roads would be empty but there were many anxious drivers trying to get their wheels on the brand new Expressway.
A big sign announce the beginning of the Yamuna Expressway. At a glance it looked as if you are entering an airport. The highway is so spacious that it looks like a runaway. Once you entered this you lost track of time. The 165 km long Expressway can be covered in 2hours. It’s as if you have tricked time.
The Expressway is so spacious that you thought driving there would be a piece of cake. But The Expressway throws up dogs and animals almost every 15 mints or so. It was early in the day and the authorities had just started dumping the animals on the clean up truck. At this rate therewouldn'tbe any dog left along the highway; nor animals. It is a great threat to the livestock and sometimes Nilgai and deer that roamed the areas. Vehicles sped past at 100 km/hr, at the speed of wind and killed anything that comes in front.
The Expressway runs though endless fields and farms. There were no towns but small houses amid sea of green August field. The Expressway is surrounded by tall walls and barbed wires. It made it almost impossible for the locals to move from one side to the other. There are some points where they can make the crossing, but there are not many such places. No wonder they protested vehemently when the project began. They have more to loose than gain.
Yamuna Expressway was also known as the Taj Expressway. It was inaugurated on August 9 by Akhilesh Yadav 2 years ahead of its original projected time. The project was initiated during Mayawati’s reign in 2001 but then held back because of the change of guard in the government. The whole project costs Jaypee Rs.12,839 crore to implement.
The speed limit for car is 100km/hr and 60 km/hr for heavy vehicles, but people would overtake us so frequently even while we were driving at 100km/hr. The highway had just opened and I guess people were taking advantage of the new establishment. There were cameras installed on the road but they were being lenient on the speed limit. The Expressway was free off toll tax till August 15 and a lot of people were taking advantage of that. The toll rate for small vehicle is Rs.320 for a trip and Rs.510 for a round trip. Whereas for buses and trucks Rs.1050 and Rs.1680 respectively. To create a fast moving corridor and to cut down travel time is one of the main objectives of the Expressway. So if you think you can’t buy time. Think again while you are on this road!
There are 3 toll plazas on each side and each toll plaza has public toilets and restaurants. The 6 lane road (extendable to 8lanes) is elevated 2-3 metres from the ground, so it gives a good view of the surrounding fields. We made random stops to take in the fresh air. It gave us the feeling of rural India, far removed from the crowded city. The road rises and falls like a wave and turns like serpentine silver. It was something else to just drive through that corridor. The closest feeling that comes to my mind was playing ‘need for speed’ computer games. The road is so good that it felt unreal. This is definitely one of modern day’s revelations.
We reached Agra around 10:30am but then we had made four good stops. If we had not made any stops, we would have reached around 10am. That sums up to 2hours of good driving on the Expressway. But there could be some bumps along the way. If you live deep into the city, driving from Delhi to Greater Noida is one hour drive sans the traffic and entering the 5-6km stretch into Agra town can take more time than the entire Expressway. So it’s wholly a matter of luck. Sometimes it can be easy and quick, other times you could end up sulking in your car for 5hours. But the experience of driving on the country’s longest controlled 6-lane Expressway was liberating and unparalleled.
We did not bother to go into Agra. We stopped at a dhaba outside Agra and had some parantha for breakfast and headed back to Delhi. Driving to Agra for breakfast would have been unthinkable few years back!