Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Prof Chirwa links road traffic jams to collapsed rail system

Prof Chirwa links road traffic jams to collapsed rail system
By Chibaula Silwamba in Livingstone
Tuesday November 27, 2007 [03:00]

ROAD traffic congestion is the consequence of the complete collapse of railway system in Zambia, UK based automotive engineer and University of Bolton lecturer Professor Clive Chirwa has said. And Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) road transport manager Robert M’tonga said 55,000 vehicles were registered last year alone in Zambia. Making a presentation dubbed, ‘Road congestion: What are the business challenges?’ during the Zambia Institute of Marketing (ZIM) annual conference on Saturday, Prof Chirwa said road traffic congestion affected delivery of services, products and disturbed production and in turn disrupt economic growth.

“Every time I come to Zambia, I don’t see a single locomotive moving on these railways. Where I come from, every minute, I see a train moving from A to B,” he said.

“The most important thing is to develop rail infrastructure. I have gone to the minister of transport and we had discussions to see how we can revive the railway system and push the railway system to what it is supposed to be.”

Prof Chirwa said the government should come in to revive the system and not depend on the private sector. He said that roads today move most products that were moved by rail. He said to make matters worse, roads were still colonial in nature and suggested the construction of more roads to suit a modern society.

Prof Chirwa said that the solution to the roads congestion had to be found now and not later in 10 or 15 years time.

“Five thousand cars in the colonial days to millions of cars today on the roads means you cannot maintain the same roads which you had 43 years ago,” he said. “We also need toll system to protect roads and bridges.”

He proposed coming up with a congestion charge on motorists ‘wandering’ about on busy roads as it was done in other countries.

“Every single time you want to make a movement into that area, you need to have control. We don’t need to have, for example, many people who are just visiting or just coming from other towns to pass through the city centre.

They can go round the city centre in order to create a clear flow, but you find that most of these vehicles are coming through the city centre and creating congestion,” he observed.

“So those people who have got no business to do in the city centre are the ones who can be charged to pay congestion charge. That would control congestion. This happens in all big cities around the world and London is a good example. When you go to Westminster you will pay a pound as congestion charge. What they are trying to do is to let people who have business in there go free of charge and move faster.”

He further suggested the use of rivers for transportation of goods.

“The rivers in Zambia do nothing apart from people moving from point A to B on small canoes. We can bring barges, barges are ships which sink less and therefore can carry the goods,” he said. “We can move goods from the Copperbelt Province all the way to Solwezi and come to Livingstone.”

“We must look at that in depth in order to understand how we can use the rivers to transport goods. These are ideas which people need to look at. You can move all the copper on the river,” Prof Chirwa said. “Therefore the river and railway transport become extremely important for a landlocked country. If you don’t have these infrastructure then you are doomed, there is no development that can take place.”

Prof Chirwa said some time back an engineer proposed the construction of circular roads in Lusaka but his suggestion was rejected on the basis that it was expensive.

“We could have done that and it was cheaper that time but now it has become difficult and expensive,” said Prof Chirwa.

And M’tonga said the increase in vehicles was good but most drivers had no licence.

“We are having a lot of accidents and many young people who can contribute to the growth of this economy are dying in road accidents,” he said.

M’tonga suggested that companies make different times at which employees report for work.

“Those are some of the initiatives that are being implemented in societies where congestion has been a problem,” said M’tonga.

Road Development Agency corporate affairs manager Kasote Singogo said some billboards on roadsides were a nuisance and lead to accidents.

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