Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, which is expected to decongest Delhi’s traffic by diverting around two lakh vehicles daily. Earlier in the day, he launched the first phase of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway in New Delhi before travelling to Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, for the second inauguration.

The 8.36-km section of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway is the first national highway with 14 lanes, including a six-lane expressway and eight service lanes. The highway connects Nizamuddin Bridge in Delhi to the national capital’s border with Uttar Pradesh.

The entire project covers 82 km, and is likely to cost Rs 4,975.17 crore, the government said. The first phase was built in 18 months for Rs 841.5 crore.

The six-lane Eastern Peripheral Expressway connects Kundli to Palwal in Haryana via Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. Kundli is located in Haryana to the north of the Capital, and Palwal in the south. The other half of the project, the Western Peripheral Expressway, will connect Kundli to Palwal via Manesar, to the west of Delhi.

Built at a cost of Rs 11,000 crore, the Eastern Peripheral Expressway has solar power lighting across its entire length, the government said. The 135-km expressway is a part of the 271-km Ring Road.

The road will have auto-challans for over-speeding as cameras will capture speeds of vehicles, PTI reported. It will also have provisions of tolling only for the distance travelled, and “weigh-in-motion” equipment will help stop entry of over-loaded vehicles.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath called the Eastern Peripheral Expressway a lifeline for Delhi residents. He said the highway would pave the way for the development of towns like Baghpat and Ghaziabad, The Indian Express reported. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was also present at the inauguration in Baghpat.

The expressway was initially supposed to be inaugurated by April 20. However, the Prime Minister’s Office cancelled the inauguration because of Modi’s “prior commitments”. On May 10, the Supreme Court asked the National Highway Authority of India to inaugurate the Eastern Peripheral Expressway on or before May 31. “[We] can’t wait indefinitely for the prime minister [to inaugurate it],” the court had said.

“Eastern Expressway will be thrown open from June 1 even if the PM can’t inaugurate it by then,” the Supreme Court said. “[It] won’t be in public interest to delay it further.”

Modi criticises Congress

The prime minister accused the Congress and other Opposition parties of trying to break the Bharatiya Janata Party and acting as “obstacles in development” of the country. “Those who worship a family can never worship democracy,” Modi said. “They even deny the courage of the Indian Army in conducting the surgical strike.”

The prime minister rebuked the Congress for “making a joke out of whatever work is done for the poor Dalits and backward classes”. Modi said: They [Congress] think creating toilets for women is a joke, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a joke, providing free liquefied petroleum gas connections is a joke, making bank accounts is a joke.”