Transport Operators Meet Roads Minister Over Closure Of Buipe & Yapei Bridges
| Updated Nov 29, 2017 at 3:40pm
The Minister of Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta (left), interacting with some transport operators in Accra. Photograph by Emmanuel Quaye
Representatives of transport operators across the country on Tuesday, held a crunch meeting with the Minister of Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako-Atta, over the closure of the Buipe and the Yapei bridges in the Northern Region.
Since the closure of the bridges on November 22, 2017, transport operators have complained about the deplorable nature of the Eastern Corridor road.
More than 200 vehicles are currently stranded at Yeji in the Bono-Ahafo Region, trying to cross over to Makango in the Northern Region.
The transport operators also complained about the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) requirement for them to pay GH¢1,000 for each day that they delayed in carting their goods to the final destination that is worsening their plight.
Tuesday’s meeting involved operators drawn from transport associations; Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), the Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council (GRTCC), the Joint Association of Port Transportation Union (JAPTU), the Ghana National Cargo Transport Association (GNCTA), as well as their counterparts from African countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
They appealed to Mr. Amoako-Atta to make a case for the GRA to relax that requirement within the period of the closure of the bridges, while asking the Ministry of Roads and Highways (MRH) to expedite action on fixing the bridges.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has invited the minister to appear before Parliament tomorrow, Thursday, November 30, 2017, to brief the House on the closure of the bridges to vehicular traffic and also to tell the house on the measures put in place before the closure of the bridges.
He is required to indicate the alternative routes given to motorists and the steps being taken to alleviate their suffering.
The Speaker gave the order following a request by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, for the Minister to brief the House on the closure of the bridges.
Mr. Iddrisu said the closure of the bridges, which linked the north to the south, had caused a lot of hardships for travelers.
"The closure of the bridges is affecting businesses and transportation," he said.
Therefore, he said, it was crucial for the minister to apprise Members of Parliament (MPs), who are representatives of the people, on the measures taken before and after the closure of the bridges to reduce the suffering of motorists.
Supporting the request, the Deputy Majority Chief Whip, Mr Mathew Nyindam, said the closure of the bridges was a serious issue at Cabinet.
He said the Cabinet had already prompted the Minister of Transport to brief the House on the matter.
He said the minister "needs to brief us on measures to ameliorate the suffering of the people".
At the meeting in the minister’s office, the transport operators also called for immediate measures to be taken by the ministry to fix portions of the alternative roads that would be used during the period of the closure of the bridges to reduce the long hours spent on those roads.
For instance, they raised concerns over the fact that the Eastern Corridor road was so deplorable and unsafe to use.
Drivers who plied the Kumasi route also raised issues about the small nature of the roundabouts in the area, saying long trucks could not easily negotiate the curves.
Responding to the concerns raised, Mr. Amoako-Atta said engineers and other experts had been deployed to fix the deplorable portions of the Eastern Corridor road, while efforts were made to fix the two bridges within one month.
“I admit that the alternative routes are in a deplorable state, but I want us to see the current situation as a national crisis that needs to be addressed through sacrifices.
“As I speak now, some engineers are fixing deplorable portions of the Eastern Corridor road, while others are also at the site of the two bridges working hard to fix the problem as soon as possible.
“I can assure you that the bridges will be fixed and opened for use before Christmas. If by Christmas the bridges are not fixed, I am ready to sleep there with the engineers to get it fixed for you,” he said.
He said the ministry was exploring all avenues, including bringing on board additional ferries at Yeji to support the alternative route at the Central Corridor road.
Touching on concerns raised over payments to the GRA for delays on the road, the minister said he would take up the issue with the Commissioner General of the GRA to ensure that the transport operators did not suffer unduly.
“Given the current situation, we all have to understand that it is through no fault of yours that the possible delays may occur and so the issues will be addressed,” he said.
Mr Amoako-Atta disclosed that GH¢7 billion had been earmarked to construct overpasses at the Ejisu and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) roundabouts to ensure easy movement.
Meanwhile, the minister announced that a joint committee, comprising the MRH, the Ministry of Transport and the transport unions, would be formed to address challenges in the road sector.
He gave the transport operators two weeks to submit five members to be on the committee which, he said, would be inaugurated by the end of the year.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic after the meeting with the minister, the General Secretary of the GRTCC, Mr Andrews K. Kwakye, said the transport operators were satisfied with the response of the ministry to the concerns raised by the group.
He, however, said it was important to take bold and proactive steps to address such issues before they degenerated.
On Monday, November 22, this year, the MRH announced the closure of the Buipe and the Yapei bridges, following the worsening of conditions of the bridges that posed security threats to the road users.
The two bridges, which were constructed in the 1960s, link Ghana to its Sahelean neighbours such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger which also do not have sea ports to receive imports but do so through the Tema Harbour.
The Buipe and the Yapei bridges, both located in the Central Gonja District of the Northern Region and over the Black and the White Volta, respectively, also link the Tamale-Kintampo stretch.
This is the second time this year that the two bridges have been closed to vehicular traffic for maintenance and rehabilitation works, respectively. The first one was in the early part of the year.
The closure of the bridges does not only affect the movement of goods and people but also increases travelling time from Tamale to Accra and Kumasi from 12 to 18 hours and from six to 10 hours, respectively, based on the alternative routes announced by the ministry.
SOURCE: Daily Graphic