We could have done better with our public transport – Minority Chief Whip on abandoned ‘Aayalolo’ buses

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The Ranking Member of the Roads and Transport Committee of Parliament, Kwame Governs Agbodza, says the country’s inability to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is a cause for concern. He contends that the lack of an efficient transport structure in the country leaves much to be desired, describing the current situation as sad and worrying. “I have no doubt that all of us can say that we could have done better with our public transport system. No actual city, which is progressive, can be progressive without an efficient transport system,” Mr. Agbodza, who is also the Minority Chief Whip said in a reaction to a TV3 story on abandoned Aayalolo buses. In a yet-to-be-aired story on TV3, the Adaklu legislator noted that the BRT which operates under the brand name ‘Aayalolo’ seems not to have received the needed attention to make its operations successful. “If you want to run a public transport system that is capable of being sustained, then the basic cost of running it must be secured; i.e. fuel and maintenance cost and other things. So, if you don’t have the subsidy, and you’re also not allowing the system to run at a cost recovery rate at least, then it’s going to run into trouble.” “BRT is working in Cote d’Ivoire; BRT is working in many other advanced countries; BRT will work in Ghana, if we want it to work. If you are not putting in the investment, if you park the buses, you haven’t developed new roads, you haven’t developed the structure under which they should work, of course it will not work,” he posited. Attempts to replicate a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the country as an efficient public transportation structure to reduce traffic congestion appears illusive. Under both the Mahama and Akufo-Addo administrations, the well-intended social intervention programme has moved at a snail’s pace. Operators of the buses, the Greater Accra Passenger Transport Executive (GAPTE), are struggling to bear the cost of managing the fleet. During a visit to the Achimota New Station, where the buses are parked, the TV3 news team observed weeds on the concrete tiles. Some residents, traders and workers nearby have also turned a wire mesh being used as a fence into drying lines. When asked whether the Committee is aware of the situation, Governs Agbodza responded that “We’ve asked questions about this in the past.” “I am not aware of anything except to say that if you see the way BRT is operated in Cote d’Ivoire for instance it has government subsidy. Indeed, we have all seen pictures of these buses.” “In fact, these buses are much more durable than some of the less durable or quality buses we are buying day and night in this country; so, it’s quite a sad situation we are in,” he added. 2024 budget Governs Agbodza hinted that the Committee will demand answers from the Transport and Local Government ministries during the presentation of the 2024 budget.According to him, they will decide on their next line of action based on the feedback they get from the Ministers. He explained: “I mentioned the budget because, as you know, we are getting ready for the budget, so even if we were to be calling a Minister right now, they’d basically tell you the budget will be coming.” “It’s about running an efficient public transport system that works for me, works for you [and] works for Ghanaians. It can actually reduce traffic jams in the city. So, if something is a solution to a problem we all face today, who will say this is not something we should pursue?” he quizzed. Need for other transport systems Inasmuch as the abandoned Aayalolo buses should not be left to rot, the Adaklu MP also wants the country to invest in other transport systems. “I am talking beyond even road transport. I am not aware of any big city that runs solely on road transport. Even if you build 10 lanes everywhere, people will fill it with cars. That is why we need a combination of rail, road and others.” “The opportunity is there for us to improve the way we organize transportation in our cities and towns to make it better for us, create jobs and make our lives better. It can actually reduce traffic jams in the city. So, if something is a solution to a problem we all face today, who will say this is not something we should pursue?” Officials decline TV3 interview Following the discovery of the poor state in which many of the buses find themselves, attempts were made to get official responses from the Local Government Ministry, and operators of the buses. All of them refused to grant any interview. On the part of the Local Government Minister, Dan Botwe, he stated that plans are far advanced concerning the operations of the buses; yet, he would not want to make any official comment. Background Government secured 245 buses from the Scannia Group of Sweden in 2016 to operate a bus rapid transit system. The buses, with the capacity to take over 80 passengers, are equipped with GPS, cameras, television monitors and mobile charging points. It was a system meant to help deal with the challenges associated with transportation. The buses were also to help in diverse ways including the reduction in travel time along the busy corridors, which would be a major advantage to workers. Currently, the Aayalolo buses operate from Amasaman to Accra, Adenta to Accra, Kasoa to Accra, and on few other major roads. Even with that, there are not enough dedicated lanes for their operations; so, they equally join the regular traffic – defeating the initial purpose for their operations. As it stands, Ghana’s bus rapid transit arrangement appears to be a waste of resources as it has failed to serve its intended purpose. By Christian Yalley | TV3 Ghana | 3news.com

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