Drivers, passengers angry at government over state of the motorway
�as they wonder what has been done with the road tolls meant to reconstruct the highway.
� I quite remember that the government told us on radio that they are increasing the toll fees so that they would generate money to be able to put the road in good shape but now as you can see for yourself, they have not been truthful with us�.
� They have failed to reconstruct the highway that is a major road network linking Ghana to other parts of Africa. I am extremely disappointed in them. Now we can only wait for the future because when you talk they may not listen to you.�
This is the frustration of Alex Ayim, a resident of Community 6 in Tema but has his business in Accra and for that matter uses the highway every day.
Alex states also that the condition of the highway is not only posing a death threat but also worsening the economic conditions of the citizens because they have to spent money that could have been used on other things to benefit themselves, on the repairs of their vehicles following the persistent drops into potholes.
�A lot of people use the road a lot including the wealthy men� he stated, adding that �the armed robbers know this, so they hide along the road so that when your vehicle breaks down, they will use that as an advantage to attack you,� Alex disclosed.
From all indications the condition of the highway exposes users to miscreants who hide on the highway in anticipation that vehicles will stop and pack to fix their vehicles and then pounce on them to rob them off their valuable properties including money.
Even though estate developers are putting up residential apartments along the highway, there are also bushy areas along the road which serve as hide outs for criminals.
Linda Twum, a shop owner in Community 1 in Tema and a user of the tolled highway says that �my brother sometimes I don�t want to even talk about it but you are forced to talk at times. What I can say is that the road is bad. They patch it at times as you may have seen and
then it goes back to its bad state.�
The concerns of these two tax payers are in tandem with the reason for the astronomical increase in the road tolls. Former Minister for Roads and Highways, Joe Gidisu, under whose tenure the the tolls were increased, at an encounter with the press indicated that �the objective of the recent increases in the roads and bridge tolls was to mobilise adequate resources to undertake the routine and periodic maintenances as well as rehabilitation of roads to ensure safety, save time, money and also protect lives.�
He said also that the road sector was faced with numerous challenges that had constrained the achievement of its targets especially with routine and periodic maintenance and rehabilitation of existing roads.
Now, four years after the increase, the highway has not seen any major rehabilitation, implying that there is still no safety on the road, wastes time of users and also does not protect lives even though the people have been paying toll fees day in and day out.
Boateng kissi, a driver who also farms along the highway in an interview, stated that he did not even know where and what the money accrued from the road tolls have been used for. In addition to farmining there are residential projects on going by estate developers. along the highway.
�Massa [Master] please I don�t know what they use the money for.�
When told there is a road fund the money is paid into, he was quick to say that �I don�t care where they take the money to, they said they would recosntruct the road for us that is all we want.� He added also that �they should not tell us the money is here or there but we can�t see projects for it.�
The state of the tolled highway has left many tax payers wondering what could be wrong with the ministry of roads and highway, the government agency in charge of construction and reconstruction and maintenance of raods in the country.
Joselyn Baafi, a business woman who uses the highway almost every day said that the authorities had taken Ghanaians for granted for a long time following the blatant disregard for responsibilities.
�This is irresponsible on the part of the government otherwise how do you explain the condition of the road at a time we are paying a lot in tolls,� she quizzed.
All efforts by this writer to get to the ministry to respond to the concerns being raised about the state of the motorway have proved futile.
As indicated in the interviews, the current state of the tolled highway has attracted a lot of concerns from the general public given the amount of money paid by drivers as toll fees.
The tolled highway over the years has not seen any major reconstruction except for some minor repairs, leaving gaping potholes along the stretch, which poses a hazard to motorists and commuters. The only attempt to deal with the potholes is that a lot of them have been covered with bitumen.
However, a road contructor who did not want his identity known but only gave Kofi as his name and has been in the road construction biusiness for the past twenty seven years indicated that bitumen was the wrong material used because the highway was constructed with concrete.
This is exactly so because the few potholes that were covered with bitumen are going back to the deplorable state onse more
It would be recalled that the Business Day newspaper in its March 18, 2014 edition carried an article with the headline �Tema motorway:30,000 cars pay tolls daily but no facelift.�
This article was subsequently carried by the GhanaWeb portal. The article stated that the Head of the Public-Private-Partnership Advisory Unit, Ekow Coleman, said only the Accra-Tema Motorway meets the requirement for the Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Unit model under the Public-Private-Partnership initiative by government which aims to give a number of roads including the Tema motorway a facelift.
Under the model, private investers will fianace the upgrading of the roads and transfer ownership to government after recouping their investment through tolls.
Charles Kwame Boakye, a research fellow at the Institute of Infrastructure Development, in an article he wrote on the increase of the tolls on the highway indicated that increasing tolls go with a lot of responsibilities.
He stated that there are 29 toll stations and 1.1 million vehicles in Ghana and the development of a viable operational road tolling policy requires a structured approach to ensure maximum returns.
�The Motorway for example must set the best practice tolling system in Ghana with better lighting, improved pavements. With the average 1000 percent increases in road tolls, Ghanaians expect to see visible, tangible improvements on our roads. Expectations though justified, would not be met soon due to the wide deficit in road financing.
Nevertheless, Ghanaians must demand accountability and the Board owes it a duty to disclose income and expenditure statements,� he said.
Surprisingly, the 2014 budget statement that was presented to Parliament last year by the Minister for Finance, Seth Terpkeh, did not allocate any budget to the reconstruction of the Accra-Tema highway as promised.
The total budget allocated to the Ministry of Roads and Highway last year to undertake road construction and refurbishment was GH S 779,276,751. This is according to the �Citizens� Budget�.
The �Citizens� Budget� is a simplified and abridged version of the budget statement and Economic Policy of Ghana for 2014 financial year, compiled by FAT-Africa and PenplusBytes, civil society groups.
The amount was specifically to be used to increase construction of 300km trunk, 90km rural and 150km urban roads; work on the Area Wide Intelligent Traffic System in Accra; improve various roads in the Central region; Improve La Beach road; and install and maintain 60 traffic signals and 21 road safety hazard sites.
Going into next year the Minister for Finance, Seth Terpker, has given an indication that all is set for the motorway to be reconstructed.
During the presentation of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2015 Financial Year to Parliament in November, he stated that �Accra-Tema Motorway: The procurement of Transaction Advisor to undertake feasibility study for the widening and rehabilitation of the Accra-Tema Motorway is in progress.�
All the efforts by this writer to get the ministries of roads and highways and finance to respond to questions on why the tolled highway has not seen any major reconstruction proved futile.
There have not been any responds from the public relations departments of both ministries after several visits to the offices and several phone calls made to the offices.
The highway was one of the prestigious projects constructed by the first President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Currently, commercial vehicles (trotro) and 4x4s are charged GH S 1.00 while big trucks are charged GH S 2.00.
Source: Laud Nartey (Development Journalist- [email protected])
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