13 February 2013

Zambia: Dual Carriageways Solution to Nasty Collisions

Photo: Capital FM

THE fatal crash involving a Lusaka-bound Post Bus and a truck which claimed more than 50 lives near Chibombo has once again brought into public spotlight the imperative need to search for appropriate solutions to the road carnage which has exacted a high toll on human life.

As Government and experts in the transport sector get down to the drawing board to map out solutions to the problems which have dogged the industry for a long time, President Michael Sata's directive to all stakeholders to sort out the mess will still be ringing in their ears.

A Presidential directive is a clarion call to action, and the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA), the Ministry of Transport, Communication, Works and Supply, which oversees this vital sector, the police and all concerned parties cannot afford to ignore this directive, for they would be doing so at their own peril.

The collision between a Post Bus and truck along the Lusaka-Kabwe Road in Chibombo District was a grotesque outrage which underscores the imperative need to take pragmatic steps, as a matter of urgency, to restore sanity to Zambia's roads and stave off the spectre of serious accidents.

The frequency of fatal collisions on most highways is a source of grave worry to the public, and the matter has understandably ignited the ire of higher authorities who are now demanding pragmatic solutions to end the road carnage.

One answer to the crisis at hand, although it is not necessarily a panacea to the problem, is the planned construction of dual carriageways on some of the major highways that have recorded unacceptably high numbers of accidents that have claimed numerous lives.

The Lusaka-Kabwe-Kapiri Mposhi Road is a major link between the capital city and the Copperbelt Province, and is also one of the busiest in our country.

Most fatalities recorded on this stretch are a result of head-on collisions attributable mainly to poor judgement and reckless driving by most drivers.

Most public passenger transporters who ply their trade on this highway will be elated to learn that the Road Development Agency (RDA) will this monthend award the long-awaited contract for commencement of the upgrading of the Lusaka-Kapiri Mposhi highway into a dual carriageway.

In his latest update on progress on the Link Zambia 8000 Road Project, RDA director and chief executive officer, Bernard Chiwala, also announced that evaluation of bids for the upgrading of the Kitwe-Chingola Road into another dual carriageway had also been completed. RDA is now awaiting authority to award the contract so that work could commence.

Being the key link to the new 'Copperbelt' in North-Western Province, the Kitwe-Chingola Road is another busy trunk road that has recorded a number of fatalities due to its poor state and heavy traffic, mostly trucks hauling cargo from and into Solwezi.

A number of other roads countrywide are also earmarked for construction and expansion under the Link Zambia 8000 Project -- the most comprehensive road construction and refurbishment programme ever undertaken in Zambia.

This programme will significantly upgrade the road infrastructure in Zambia and pave the way for major developments in some areas that have hitherto been inaccessible. President Sata deserves commendation for his far-sighted approach that has culminated in the launch of the Link Zambia 8000 Project within a year after assumption of the Presidency.

A concomitant development that needs to be embarked upon in the road sector is the construction of toll gates on all the major trunk roads to raise the much-needed revenue for the maintenance of the road infrastructure.

Periodic maintenance has been lacking, resulting in the degeneration of most roads that have now become virtual death traps as motorists navigate their way around huge pot-holes.

We are confident that under the watchful eye of the President and the parent ministry, RDA, RTSA and other stakeholders will all strive to implement programmes aimed at enhancing safety of motorists and passengers on Zambia's roads.

Let everyone roll their sleeves and get down to the brass tacks. The time to act is now.

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