Transport woes in firing line

Concerns have been raised that walking, cycling or travelling on the back of a bakkie are neither safe nor reliable.

26 July 2019 | Transport

The transport and urban and rural development ministers, together with development partners, have unveiled a N$12 billion transport master plan for the northern regions, which, among others, will introduce a scheduled bus service and taxi call centre.

This is aimed at addressing transportation challenges in the north.

The master plan aims to develop a regional and inter-regional transport system, which will connect all residents and places with reliable, effective, efficient, sustainable and safe transport, which supports urban and rural development.

It also aims to mitigate the impact of rural migration on peri-urban areas in Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Omusati. Deputy transport minister James Sankwasa launched the plan on behalf of his senior in the ministry, John Mutorwa, yesterday at Ondangwa. Sankwasa said after the City of Windhoek, his ministry, their urban and rural development counterparts and other stakeholders agreed to work together to implement the Sustainable Urban Transport Master plan for Windhoek and its surrounding areas, a consensus was reached that Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Omusati must be accorded an opportunity to develop a similar sustainable transport master plan.

Once the Windhoek master plan is fully implemented it will improve public and non-motorised transport in the city. The plan looks at alternative transport access to those currently walking long distances to access these services, by introducing conventional services such as buses, minibuses and taxis to operate on inter-urban roads and in urban and peri-urban areas, as well as rural areas. “We all know that the northern regions are experiencing challenges caused by the current transportation systems.

These challenges are further worsened by growth in economy and population. It therefore become imperative to have a plan that offers transport services in terms of routes, frequency, duration of travel and tariffs that correspond to the demand,” said Sankwasa.

“It should be noted that due to the geographic nature of these regions covered by this plan, vast rural areas remain inaccessible by most means of transport. Many residents have to walk for long distances to access public transport services. It's a known fact that conventional transport services (buses, minibuses and taxis) tend to operate only on inter-urban roads, and in urban and peri-urban areas.”

Sankwasa added that walking and cycling for the few people owning bicycles or travelling in someone else´s bakkie are default options, and are neither safe nor reliable.

He said these current default options are surely undesirable in an independent country, hence the master plan. Verusckha Araes, the technical advisor for GIZ, said possible pilot projects include the introduction of a scheduled bus service on the Oshakati-Ongwediva-Ondangwa-Omuthiya route, a pilot project supporting the setting up a taxi call centres, the provision of school buses and other public services in the vicinity of large cities in the Oshana Region by private operators and a pilot project for the use of improved bakkies as professional taxis. “Currently the main roads (B1 and C46) between the busiest urban parts of the northern triangle are serviced by private taxis or small buses, and this system is now reaching its limits regarding reliability, affordability, timeliness and safety,” Araes said.

“It is now high time to start the modernisation of the public transport system in the four northern regions, to organise a competition for the market that will introduce and manage public service obligations in a way that the overall burden for the concerned town councils' budgets is affordable.” She added the current practice is to catch a taxi on the street, especially on the roadside, because there are no parking lanes for taxis.

“This master plan is expected to provide a viability of on-demand operation through a taxi call centre, established in one urban area of the four regions. The reliable services will be available for the benefit of all groups of customers (women, the elderly and disabled),” Araes said.

Oshana governor Elia Irimari welcomed the transport mater plan, saying that the four northern regions are home to about 40% of the 2.5 million inhabitants in Namibia and during the festive season, the population increases to about 60%, as loved ones return to these regions to join their families in celebrating Christmas and New Year.

He said it's not unknown for small shops, supermarkets and even fuel stations to run short of supplies during this period. Hotels and guesthouses welcome this busy time of the year with 100% occupancy rates. This business helps them get through the less busy periods of the year.

ILENI NANDJATO

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