The Sierra Leone Integrated Resilient Urban Mobility Project (SLIRUMP), a $50 million USD World Bank funded project was on Thursday 28 November 2019 unveiled at the Miata conference Hall in Freetown. According to a FCC document, 84% of people use public transport, which is dominated by kekes, commercial motorbikes, taxis and poda-podas. The aim of the SLIRUMP is to transform Freetown from a congested, vehicle-oriented city to a people-oriented city. At the launch of the project, President Bio alluded to the deplorable public transport system plaguing the country and Freetown in particular. Freetown roads are multi-purpose, serving hawkers, pedestrians, parking, loading/unloading and random bus and taxi stops. The President cited poor road networks, unfit vehicles for public transport, trucks that are not road worthy, congestion of roads and lack of enforcement of road traffic regulations. He said this chaotic public transport scenario is not good for citizens. President Bio said women and children’s safety is key in the implementation of the project to work. Most affected are women and people with disabilities. Bio said the project will improve the overall governance and operation of our public transport system with fully integrated state-of-the-art digital notification systems of the movement of buses as well as cashless payment. The Freetown City Council (FCC) is the largest beneficiary of the project. Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said Freetown is home to 1.2 million people with a projection of 2 million by 2028. Available evidence suggests 18% of women have been sexually harassed in public transportation and up to 30% of women in poda-podas. Aki-Sawyerr said, “A city cannot function effectively without a functional transport system. This project is in line with our Transform Freetown agenda and Council will ensure that cable cars are also integrated into it in the near future,” she said. “This project has the potential to restore and promote the dignity of drivers and road users. The road infrastructure will be upgraded, increased revenue for transport owners, modernized and make resilient, decent and comfortable the transport delivery system” said Alpha Bah, the president of Motor Drivers Association.
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Vandi Lansana, Vice President Sierra Leone Traders Council said he is pleased with the project in that it will construct two big markets in the East and West of the city which will ease the problem of their members. The Finance Minister, Jacob J. Saffa, said from April 2018 to November 2019, the government has raised close to $1 billion USD to support development projects in the country “Our duty is to communicate government priorities to partners and when financial commitments are made ensure that the funds are received,” he said. This transformative project’s direct beneficiaries are Western Area’s daily public ridership – over 75,000 people, with nearly 40% women of the 50,000 people who will benefit from better roads. Urban mobility is a massive challenge. There has not been any major infrastructural development to improve on the narrow streets within the city that links both the west and the central business district. “This project will provide premium quality, economic, user oriented bus transport system that will improve the quality of life for all, including poor, women, school children and provide an efficient alternative to informal and personalized transport services. This project will bring back dignity into the use of public transport in the city,” said Hindolo M. Shiaka, Director, Transport Infrastructure and Development Unit (TIDU) Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
By David Thoronka
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