Last Monday, the Bus Rapid Transport system in Ghana began on an experimental basis, along some major routes in Accra. According to an official report, a number of people, including workers in the Central Business Centre in the national capital, were given a free ride, obviously, to win them over to patronise the service.
In a nation where the rail service has been ran to the ground, the experiment provided a new beginning for commuters to reach the heart of the city, by avoiding the congestion that usually condemns commuters to be in traffic for hours on end.
Like many things Ghanaian, the experiment failed the litmus test. Bungling state officials succeeded in forcing the buses off the roads. By the end of the first day, the exercise was abandoned, and the name of the organisation changed. Without lanes specifically designated for use by the new bus service, it is impossible for the transit to be rapid. From Bus Rapid Transit, enters the new name – Quality Bus System.
It is akin to a family inviting guests to the naming ceremony of their newly-born baby, only for the same couple to call the their guests back the next day, on the flimsy excuse that the original name they gave to the child was no more applicable, and that a new one was being proposed.
According to an official release from the operators of the service, the name change has been occasioned by lack of dedicated routes for their buses. In effect, the new service would have to struggle with other commuters to reach the central business centre.
The change of name aside, the service had to be suspended to resolve myriads of other problems. We are told that the buses could not be registered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority before the pilot exercise began. There was a huge challenge on the opening day, with muffled communication between driver and passengers.
The Chronicle understands that there were serious challenges with the log system, which is supposed to provide information on the various stops along the way, creating a situation where passengers wishing to get down had to shout at the top of their voices to alert the driver. In a number of cases, passengers were at drivers’ throats, because those at the wheels were unable to detect where they were to stop.
Mr. Roland Bruce, Communications Director of the new system, apologised for the inconvenience on the opening day, and promised that the buses would be registered for the service to resume work, as soon as possible. But that is scant consolation for the confusion of the first day.
We are told that it took nearly five years to put the package together, including flying officials to Brazil, Nigeria, the Middle East, and many other countries to learn at firsthand how the system works.
What did those officials go to do abroad if they could not replicate what they saw in those countries back home? So much noise was made about the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transport, with President John Dramani Mahama himself sinking his reputation into the project.
The Head of State was at Amasaman some time ago, virtually directing the demarcation exercise for the Bus Rapid Transit to have its own dedicated route. Was it a matter of the dedication being abandoned or what? If it was, what influenced the decision, with the good people of Ghana being left in the dark?
Why officials of the company did not rectify all the anomalies before putting the buses to work tells everything about why this society is failing to uplift itself. The Chronicle is unable to appreciate why buses meant for our roads were not insured, when the pilot project began in Accra. The laws of this country do not allow vehicles to be on our roads without being insured.
In other parts of the world, rapid transit is regarded as so important to the commuter service generally, that it is jealously promoted and guarded. When Mr. Tony Blair was Prime Minister of Britain, he once used a dedicated route for buses to the Palace of Westminster, when he was late for Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons.
The people of Britain took exception to this infraction on the part of the Prime Minister. Mr. Tony Blair had to apologise publicly to the people of Britain before peace could be restored.
While we are at it, we would like to submit that it is possible to dedicate special routes for the service, if officialdom puts its mind to it. The whole idea of rapid transit into the inner city of the national capital would be defeated, if we accept the notion that this nation cannot work on a dedicated line.
The idea of the Bus Rapid Transit Rapid is to encourage many people to leave their cars in their houses and use the service. That way, we would also have helped to decongest the Central Business Centre of Accra. Let officials not throw their hands in the air and abandon the project. We all can work on the exercise to succeed!
Source: The Chronicle