Maputo — Slightly more than 135,000 vehicles used the suspension bridge over the Bay of Maputo in the first month since it was opened, on 10 November, according to Silva Magaia, chairperson of Maputo-Sul, the public company in charge of the bridge, and of the roads that connect it to the tourist resort of Ponta do Ouro and the border with the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal.
Interviewed by the independent television station STV, Magaia said the flow of vehicles across the bridge is about 4,500 a day, which is higher than the initial projections of 4,000 vehicles a day during the first year in the life of the bridge.
At the Mudisssa toll-gate on the road from the bridge to Ponta do Ouro, rather more than 35,000 vehicles were registered in the first month of operations.
As for public transport, initially three buses of the Maputo municipal bus company (EMTPM) operated routes from Katembe, at the southern end of the bridge, to various points in Maputo neighbourhoods north of the bridge.
The number of EMTPM buses using the bridge has now risen to five. In the first month, said Magaia, the buses crossed the bridge 1,860 times, carrying almost 140,000 passengers. But Maputo-Sul has no records on how many privately owned minibuses (known as "Chapas"), which provide much of the city's passenger transport, are using the bridge.
There have been five accidents on the road from Katembe to Ponta do Ouro. The police believe that, in most cases, the accidents were caused by excessive speed. In the most serious case, a car carrying five people came off the road and overturned. The occupants were taken to Maputo Central Hospital where one of them died.
Magaia said various defects in the bridge have been noted, none of them serious. In the first year of the bridge's life, the contractor, the China Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) must correct all defects.
There are problems with the toll gate at the Katembe end of the bridge. In the event of a power cut, the Maputo-Sul generators do not immediately take over, forcing delays in attending to clients, which can lead to queues. Magaia said this is being corrected.
Currently only two lanes in each direction are operating at the toll gate. This will change during the festive season, said Magaia, when much heavier traffic over the bridge is expected, and all twelve toll gate lanes will be opened. He said the police will also be more vigilant during the Christmas and New Year period, checking that vehicles obey the speed limits, that drivers are not drunk, and that vehicles do not stop on the bridge.