Lucknow: Eight fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will touch down on India’s longest expressway in Uttar Pradesh as it opens to the public on Monday. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will launch the Agra-Lucknow Expressway at Unnao, around 50 km from Lucknow.
Four Sukhoi jets will fly down from Bareilly and four Mirage 2000s from Gwalior and skim the six-lane highway in simulated landings, a first for any road launch.
The 302 km expressway was completed in a record 23 months. It is tipped to reduce travel time between Delhi and the Uttar Pradesh capital from nine hours to around five.
Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh election early next year, campaign music blared out of speakers and a large contingent of Samajwadi Party leaders – including the feuding Yadav family – were expected to put up a show of unity.
Former chief minister Mayawati accused the ruling party of trying to rush the launch of the highway when even road signs haven’t all been put up. “When I was UP Chief Minister, there were some flaws in the Noida Expressway…They said inaugurate it before polls but I refused to play with people’s lives by inaugurating an incomplete expressway,” she said.
On Friday, a fighter jet practised on a 3.3 km stretch of the highway marked for landings as part of a Defence Ministry plan for emergencies when military air fields are not available. A bureaucrat who was returning to Lucknow after watching the test landing was injured in a car crash on the brand new highway.
An IAF jet practised landing on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway on Friday. An IAF jet practised landing on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway on Friday
Earlier that day, the Chief Minister, who had recently taken a ride with his family on the expressway, had warned: “I request you to drive on the expressway with caution and not exceed a speed limit of 100 km an hour.”
The state government has hired an eight-camera set-up to shoot the event.