The closure of the Yapei Steel Bridge in the Central Gonja District of the Northern Region for 30 days for maintenance works is expected to adversely affect transit trade on that corridor.
The 240-metre bridge over the White Volta is the only convenient route that links the north to the south of the country, as well as linking Ghana with its neighboring countries including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.
The month-long closure is expected to force trucks to use other longer alternative routes that will impact on their ability to cart large volumes within the period.
The three landlocked countries are significant transit trade partners of Ghana. Total transit volume for the three landlocked countries amounted to 695,000metric tonnes for the first quarter of 2016. This represents a rise of 12.3 percent compared to the same period 2015.
The transit trade comprises imports of 659,144mt and exports of 36,334mt. Major transit trade commodities include lubricating oil, processed foods/beverages, and bagged fertilizer.
While Ghana imports fresh tomatoes and livestock from its northern neighbours through the Yapei route, the three landlocked countries import variety of products from Europe and Asia via Ghana and cart them on trucks through Yapei to Ouagadougou, Bamako and Niamey.
The countries also imported finished products and salt, among others, from Ghana for domestic and industrial use.
The Minister of Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako Atta, after a tour of the Yapei Steel Bridge said: “If we don’t take care and continue to embark on maintenance, the road network will be halted to vehicular movement that will affect productivity of the country,” he said.
He said only vehicles weighing up to 20 tons will be allowed to cross the bridge during the maintenance period. After the repair works, vehicles weighing up to 60 tons, not more, will then be allowed to use the bridge.
He stressed that the Maintenance Unit and the Director of Bridges of Ghana Highways Authority (GHA) have been tasked to conduct survey on the various bridges across the country to ascertain the state of all bridges.
“It is our duty to ensure that both vehicular and human movement on our roads is safe to go about their business activities,” he said.
The project manager at the Maintenance Unit of GHA, Mr. Aminu Abubakar, said the logistics, materials and the labour for the maintenance works on the Yapei Bridge are ready to enable the work to be completed on time.
He said the unit detected 19 joints cutting of which four of them were repaired last two years with weak knots and rusty metals that needed to be replaced.
Touching on the state of the bridge, he noted that authorities must work at reducing the load allowed on the Bridge.
He said the bridge needed complete replacement adding that the maintenance cannot assure its sustainability. He assured the Minister and his entourage that due diligence will be done to ensure quality work.