"Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda is a highly sloped region and the construction of roads to reach all remote areas within the city is economically and socially unfeasible," three Rwandan researchers argue in their detailed research, which has been published in an internationally reputable journal.
Leopold Mbereyaho, Aloys Dushimimana, and Alexis Nzapfakumunsi are Rwandan researchers from the University of Rwanda's College of Science and Technology, and Turkey-based Ondokuz Mayis University, respectively.
Their research on the proposed use of aerial cable cars as an alternative means of public transport in Kigali city was published in the International Journal of Applied Engineering Research, one of the biggest scientific journals which publish top-level work from all areas of Engineering Research and their application.
In their research, which was published last year, they argue that while the population in the city of Kigali was increasing on a daily basis, the problem with people mobility from remote areas has become a burden to the government.
Graphic representation of one of the proposed metro cable line that researchers believe can work in the City of Kigali. Courtesy.
"As the construction of new roads all around, especially in areas with hilly topography is really quite expensive, both traffic congestion and long queues of people waiting for buses remain daily challenges," they said.
Their study on aerial cable cars as an alternative transport mode identified areas with most mobility problems, analysis of respective topography and proposal of adequate lines.
As a result, five metro-cable lines were proposed and respective elevation and location were collected using Global Positioning System (GPS). Project investment cost estimates were also performed.
Research established that the system would be cost effective and technically feasible, as the more loaded Line C (which links two car parks, starting from Downtown to Nyabugogo Car Park) would cost Rwf14.5 billion.
The study points out that the transport mode was found to be sustainable as the construction cost of Line C would be recovered just after 10 months of operation.
While Rwanda has made efforts in organising its transportation system, the daily increase of people mobility between and in the cities still raises valid questions.
Like many other experts, the research also confirms the problem of congestion at the existing bus terminals in the city. And, if the vehicular growth is not well managed by 2025 and 2040, the congestion in the city will not only occur but also be difficult and expensive to rectify.
Therefore, the study says, transportation needs to be transformed into a non-motorised one.
The researchers argue that in addition, the topography makes it difficult to construct new roads as the city doesn't have sufficient road reserve to widen the existing roads.
It is coupled with another big problem that many environment and climate change experts have raised; Air pollution. The change to motorised vehicles in Kigali has increased green-house gas-emissions, the major sources of air pollution being the transport sector.
The study recommends that the city needs to rely less on motorised transport by having corridors for pedestrians and cyclists
"Therefore, the air transport can be one of alternate transport in Kigali," it notes.
Cable cars; a competitive advantage for Rwanda?
Generally, cable cars are mainly used in regions of high altitude for tourism, and for public transportation in some cities located in mountains, with Medellin in Columbia, Caracas in Venezuela, and Algeria in the world considered as some examples.
The study strongly highlights that this alternative means of transport has shown a remarkable change in people's daily lives.
It improved accessibility and mobility for residents, particularly for those living in areas where the topography limits other forms of transport. Some of the major advantages of cable car technology are the ability to climb gradients with slopes as high as 100 per cent or greater.
It also has minimum direct impact to the environment due to the use of electricity instead of fuel and reduced noise pollution, lower cost of implementation and operation than other transportation systems, and almost zero accident rates.
The three researchers think this is best fit for a country like Rwanda and was confirmed by majority of people who were interviewed during the study, saying there would be no queues, no congestion and it would be quick.
Alfred Byiringiro, Transport Division Manager at the Ministry of Infrastructure, said it is something that the country is considering in the future and something feasible.
"It is one of the transport modes that we are considering in the future. There is innovation everywhere and [using] cable cars is also one of the innovations we envision in Rwanda," he noted.
He highlighted that they are currently in discussion with development partners and investors to explore the potential of this mode of transport, as adopting such means of transport would require a public-private partnership.
He, however, said that every undertaking needs an independent feasibility study beyond the academic research.
"We believe in such research but at the end of the day you need to carry out an economic feasibility study for an investor to know if it viable, and how long it could take to get back the investment," he said.
Byiringiro explained that the ministry is developing related legislation for modern transportation, and that as the master-plan of Kigali is being reviewed, this mode of transport will be catered for. The study targeted five areas and the respective lines were identified. Lines A, B, C, D and E.
Line A starts from Kimisagara hill and continues to Maison des jeunes Kimisagara, then to G.S Cyahafi and finally to Gakinjiro; Line B starts from Kacyiru Car Park to Gacuriro Apartments.
On the other hand, Line D would start from Remera Amahoro Stadium through Remera Car Park to EARR Church, while Line E, the smallest one, would start from Makuza House through Kigali city Market to Downtown car park