One of the best newspapers in the World, the New York Times, named the city of Accra as one of the top travel destinations for 2013.
According to its website, Accra was placed fourth on a list of '46 places to go in 2013,' describing the city as "a buzzing metropolis ready for business and pleasure."
Indeed, the city is vibrant and ready for business as it welcomes migrants and travellers from within and outside the country.
As rural migration continues to increase, so do tourists stream in daily to catch a glimpse of the city of about one million population and its tourist attractions.
However, the city of Accra faces significant challenge of rickety commercial vehicles which transport majority of the commuters.
Whereas in cities in other countries the key means of transport is train, taxi and public buses, in the city of Accra, the means of transportation is either by public buses, commonly refered to as trotro, taxi motorbike (which is illegal) and train, which is not in abundance.
In the transport sub-sector, nearly 90 per cent of the public transport service needs are provided by private operators, and the state provide the rest using the Metro Mass Transit buses, for example.
The commercial vehicle, which is the main mode of transport, account for about 60 per cent of passenger movement, while taxis account for only 14.5 per cent, with the remaining accounted for by private cars.
There are a number of challenges commuters go through daily in boarding the commercial vehicles, especially those manned by private operators, due to the fact that some of them are rickety and pose, risk to the welfare of commuters.
Most of these trotros are often characterised by low road safety profiles, semi-trained drivers and poor state of vehicles owing to low priority for vehicle maintenance, among others.
They mostly comprise over-used and accidents cars that had been imported into the country, while some are mainly second-hand minibuses and vans that have been rehabilitated into passenger vehicles.
The seats are mostly crudely made and often without enough leg room. Ventilation is also often poor, making passengers very uncomfortable.
In fact, some are virtual scraps with exposed metals that often tear passengers clothes and/or injure them, with danger of tetanus infections.
Some also have spoilt doors which expose passengers to dangers such as falling off from the vehicles.
Sometimes during rainfall, commuters get wet while on the vehicles because of the holes that have developed on the roofs.
Most of the assistants, commonly known as mates, do not have good service relations with the passengers. They are sometimes very rude, usually tending to fight passengers over petty misunderstandings.
These trotro buses load passengers from the stations or pick other passengers along the way. The vehicles do not run on schedule, making it difficult for passengers to get to their destination on time.
There are also no defined and sufficient bus stops to drop and pick passengers, so drivers always have problems with the police for wrong parking. This does not only delay the driver but the passengers who are going to work, or going home from work.
The situation is sometimes unbearable but I do not have any choice but to board these trotros, since they are affordable compared to taxi, a commuter, Madam Esinam Klutse, said when interviewed.
She added that sometimes the buses were so uncomfortable and they wasted a lot of time on the way.
To find out why some drivers still go with the rickety buses, a driver who runs from Achimota to Alhaji said the sales for new buses are too expensive and drivers could not meet the daily sales demanded by car owners, so they preferred going for the old buses.
With this bus I make ends meet for my family, so I cannot do without it unless I get my own new one, which is very expensive to buy, Ahmed Mohammed said.
In fact, transportation in the city of Accra is often a nightmare to the averagely resourced and poor people who are the majority in the city.
The unworthiness of most vehicles that carry passengers often leads to fatal accidents, making Ghana one of the most accident-prone countries in the world.
At least 26,621 lives were lost through road accidents from January 2000 to September 2013, while about 70, 000 people were injured within the same period.
According to statistics made available by the National Road Safety Commission, 20,503 lives were lost between January 2000 and December 2010 in road accidents that left 63,384 people injured.
Between January 2011 and December 2012, about 4,579 lives were lost, leaving more than 6,000 people injured and causing some people permanent injuries.
To avoid the challenges of these commercial vehicles, most people would like to own their cars - which is a major cause of heavy traffic in the city.
The situation has also caused increased environmental pollution from exhaust fumes.
Apart from the accidents and health implications, distances that would take normal road conditions about 15 minutes could take up to two to three hours due to the traffic situation which also slows down productivity which in turn goes against the economic growth of the country.
Commuters also have to go through hell to move from their homes to their destinations daily. To dodge the traffic, some people would have to leave home as early as 4 a.m.
The situation has forced some of the people to resort to the motorbike as a means of commercial transport, which has become a problem and burden on the government to deal with.
Any way out?
In an interview with the Deputy Director of Vehicle and Licence Registration, of the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Alhaji Iddrisu Huseini, said his outfit had already embarked on an intensive programme to confiscate rickety vehicles on the roads.
Admitting the fact that all the rickety vehicles could not be removed from the road, Alhaji Huseini said the DVLA would ensure that the number of bad vehicles was minimised.
Futhermore, he explained that after the DVLA had given out the road worthiness permit to drivers, it was possible that the condition of the vehicles waned, so it was the duty of car owners and drivers to ensure that such vehicles were no longer used on the road.
Alhaji Huseini attributed most of the accident cases to the accidents vehicle and spare parts which were imported into the country.
Most of the imported vehicles, especially the commercial ones, are accident vehicles, and some spare parts are not safe for public use, Alhaji Huseini said, adding that they are completely destroyed and beyond safety for public use.
For instance, Alhaji Huseini said car tyres must not be used for more than four years from the date of manufacture but the reverse was the case in the country.He, therefore, urged policy makers to check the importation of these accident cars and components because they were not safe for public use.
Also, he advised car owners and drivers to cultivate the culture of maintaining their vehicles regularly to ensure that they were in good shape all the time and safe for the public.
Local authorities should also construct and define enough bus stops in the city so that drivers would have enough spaces to drop and pick passengers.
There is no doubt that the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, when implemented, would enhance public transport in the city of Accra.
Source: Daily Graphic
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