The passengers using public transport systems every day face a herculean task in Freetown. Commuters are packed in mini-vans and buses beyond the normal capacity. Passengers sweat and are uncomfortable throughout their journey. “The comfort and safety of commuters in buses from Wellington to PZ have been sacrificed on the altar of profit,” said Alice Bangura. She commutes daily from Porty to Sackville Street. She said the sitting capacities of the vehicles are overloaded and the police do not stop them. “One way to know a country that is improving is through its public transport delivery system. Overloading is a big problem in this country and it cuts across every area,” she added. The bus conductor for Bongay Travel and Touristic, Kelfala Mustapha, said, “The Police have warned them not to allow people to stand near the driver. This was because many accidents were occurring at that time. The bus has a normal capacity of 45 passengers but when we load it very well, we can get up to 72 people on board. This increases our margin of profit.” He revealed that there are many drivers who are in police custody for violating road traffic regulations. “But, the Bus Drivers Union do not help drivers when their vehicles are impounded by the Police. Every day, bus drivers pay Le20,000 to the Union. We also pay Le80,000 to Traffic Wardens for tickets. if you are arrested or Le400,000 for an instant ticket,” he explained. He said their bus company under Haja Bongay prides itself with discipline and neatness and they try to comply with the road traffic rules.
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The Chair of the Drivers Union at Berry Street, Samuel, said the passengers are the ones who force their way to enter cars that are already loaded. They complain that they want to go home and we have to help each other. “We do not allow cars licensed to carry four passengers to overload during the day,” he said. “The practice is after 6:00 p.m; two people sit in front and four at the back making it six people. With the driver, the number reaches seven people.” Audrey John, a commuter from Goderich, said the situation is the same in her community. “The drivers overload their buses and people do not have free access. The passages are blocked and if any emergency occurs, people will not escape which can cause fatal accidents,” she said. The Commander of Zone 1, Western Area, Victor M. Kobba of Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), said our transport system is not integrated. He said we have enough vehicles for road transport. “However, we should continue to import road worthy vehicles,” he said. Kobba went on to say that political will is needed to have a modern road network for the enforcement of traffic regulations to be improved. He said the omni-buses when they are imported, they come with their correct seats, but after license they take it to the welders and fabricate new seats adding to the capacity. “These iron seats usually serve as weapons when accidents occur,” he stressed. He said they carry out operations and impound vehicles as well as issue tickets some are Le100,000 or Le500,000 for violating traffic regulations. “The roads in the country contribute to the poor public transport delivery system we are experiencing in the country. People must be patriotic to obey laws irrespective of political affiliation to develop the nation. To ease the public transport overloading problem in the country, we need trains, inter-connectivity, durable roads. He differentiated between car crash and accidents. There are approximately 656,000,000 public transport commuters globally. In 2018, Americans took 9.9 billion trips on public transportation. Public transport sector in USA is a $71 billion industry employing 480,000 people. Public transportation transforms communities and the lives of the people living in them by soaring economic development, promoting sustainable lifestyles and providing a higher quality of life.
By David Thoronka
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