May 8, 2015 By Samuel Ben Turay
Having waited at the Regent motor park for about an hour for a bus to central Freetown, 51-year-old Abu Sesay was getting visibly irritated and tired. He was number 96 in the queue, meaning that he wasn’t even sure he could get on the next bus. Yet, he had very urgent business to do in Freetown.
“I find it very difficult to get a vehicle to take me. I am not strong enough to stand for a very long time,” Mr. Sesay told Concord Times.
Behind Sesay were at least 40 others, all sweating and waiting for a vehicle.
Haja Mariama Kanu who lives in the Wellington community in the east-end of the city faces a similar situation. She used to leave her home at 6:00am to go to work. Yet, due to the traffic congestion, she could never arrive at her workplace at Circular Road in central Freetown before 9:00am.
“I am now compelled to leave home with the children at 5:30am. Even then, I am sometimes late due to the rush for transport even at that time of the morning and the heavy traffic along Kissy Road and Fourah Bay Road,” she expressed.
There are serious traffic congestions along Kissy Road, New England, and Aberdeen Road – indeed in nearly all parts of Freetown. It is as though Freetown is in a standstill: commuters’ snail around, vehicles loaded with passengers are standing still and unruly drivers honk intermittently in apparent frustration.
There is the more serious issue of the impact on the Ebola fight. “It could undermine the State of Emergency. People are crowded at lorry parks and other places,” noted Mr. Sesay.
Last week, the National Traffic Coordinator of the Sierra Leone Police, Superintendent Ambrose Sovula, highlighted reasons behind the unprecedented traffic congestions in the city. He blamed drivers who have the tendency to do half-way trips rather than full trips.
For example, rather than take a passenger from Brookfields to Lumley, some drivers would prefer to stop at Aberdeen Road junction, which means they can pick other passengers from there and make more money.
Superintendent Sovula also cited bad roads as well as the ongoing rehabilitation and construction of feeder roads.
The Police are aware that the Ebola virus could be transmitted through body contact, which is why officers are posted at each lorry park to ensure that people do not touch one another, he said.
Not everyone agrees with Sovula. In fact, some believe the law enforcement officers themselves often make worse an already bad situation.
Issa Kabba, a poda-poda driver who plies between Lumley and Regent Road, explained that police officers extort money from drivers. “They sometimes ask us to give them between Le 50,000 and Le 150,000.
For Mr. Sesay, the solution to easing traffic congestion lies in more buses. “To me, I think the government should provide more buses to shorten the queues.”
With road constructions underway in many parts of the city, it appears that traffic congestion is not likely to end soon. According to Mohamed S. Bangura, who lives at New England Ville, “the problem of transportation has been an issue for so long. This is not new anymore.”
Simple, the traffic nightmare continues.