One of the areas of concern I observed throughout my life in Ghana was the inefficiency of the country’s public transport system. Ghana does not have a functioning railway system; the design of the roads does not suit pedestrians or cyclists; online ride-hailing transport costs are high, and taxi fares are, largely, not standardized and therefore unpredictable.
The most common form of urban mass transport in Ghana known as ‘tro tros’, do not come with any schedules; instead, they simply wait until they are full and then depart. It’s the same for inter-city buses.
This is an area of concern because it prevents Ghanaians from traveling with ease across the country. In big cities such as Accra, this leads to inefficiencies in all areas of life for the average person. Many people tend to show up late to meetings or work due to high congestion levels on the roads, inability to predict the time buses will arrive and leave from terminals, and a generally inefficient public transport system.
Furthermore, Accra, the capital, in particular, is constantly expanding, and failure to complement the city with a functioning transport system designed for the long-term, such as a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) or a railway, will eventually make commuting in the city nearly impossible.
Throughout my time studying in Korea, amidst all the skyscrapers, high tech gadgetry/infrastructure and fancy cafes, I have been left mesmerized by the efficiency of the public transport system.
The subway system is remarkably efficient and affordable and gets you from point to point within cities in minutes, and between cities in a relatively short period of time by 250 km per hour speed-trains and multi-lane highways. You can check the time buses are scheduled to arrive and the route each bus will take via an app on your phone. This makes it astoundingly easy to plan meetings and schedule appointments, because you are instantly aware of what time you will arrive at your destination and the costs it may involve.
The issue of an effective transport system should by no means be belittled, as an effective and efficient public transport system will positively impact the lives of the average Ghanaian.
In as much it might be difficult to build a public system like that of South Korea’s, I do believe if we begin by implementing an effective bus system, it would put the country on the right path; after all Rome was not built in a day, and it is important for us to take the small steps now rather than do nothing at all.
Bus Rapid Transport System
The Bus Rapid Transport System is a high-quality bus-based system that delivers comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacity. It does this through the provision of dedicated lanes, with bus ways and iconic stations typically aligned to the center of the road, off-board fare collection, and fast and frequent operations. (Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, 2021).
The BRT system has features similar to a metro system, making it more reliable, convenient and faster than regular bus services. There are many countries and cities around the world that have BRT systems including Lagos (Nigeria), Thailand, Sweden, Indonesia, Cape Town (South Africa), and Marrakesh (Morocco).
I believe Ghana can build a similar system in the busiest parts of Accra, and other major cities such as Kumasi or Takoradi. Implementing the system in these cities could be a huge step in changing the nature of public transport in urban Ghana and helping to transform one of them into a smart city.
Benefits of Bus Rapid Transport
The BRT system will be beneficial because it will save lots of time for people as they go about their daily activities. Bus lanes separate the BRT buses from traffic, and this permits them to travel quickly through cities. Moreover, pre-paid boarding also saves boarding time; and high frequency bus services lower waiting time.
Generally, time-saving should be an essential feature with regards to transport systems, as it allows people to spend more time being productive rather than commuting. Pre-paid boarding also prevents revenue leakages (through corruption between passengers and drivers or conductors) and ensures better financial accountability.
Additionally, transportation plays a key role in the development of societies and countries. All physical goods we buy on a daily basis undergo some form of transportation – from fruits and vegetables to heavy cargo, as do the people we meet from day to day.
With the proper implementation of a BRT system, many people who have long journeys to work will benefit richly from the time-saving and the convenience. If the buses have Wi-Fi – which is easy to install these days – passengers can even work online while commuting, and this would potentially lead to an overall increase in the productivity of working people, and potentially affect the economy positively.
The BRT system also has the potential to make commuting cheaper if implemented properly, when more people choose it over private cars and make savings on fuel and maintenance costs due to wear and tear on their vehicles. It would also lead to significant traffic safety improvements.
More people commuting via BRT means fewer vehicles on the roads, leading to a safer road environment for drivers, cyclists and the many pedestrians who occupy the streets of Accra, Kumasi etc., daily. Additionally, due to a reduction in road congestion, the system has the potential to reduce the recklessness of drivers, as it would minimize competitive driving especially among commercial motorists.
Funding a Bus Rapid Transport
The implementation of such a system would by no means be easy or cheap. So how exactly do I think the government of Ghana can fund such a complicated project? Well, it can be done wholly from Ghana’s national budget or with support from bilateral or multilateral economic development co-operation institutions. Often, such co-operation funds are loaned on soft terms and can be justified considering the social and economic benefits, despite the recent concerns about Ghana government’s borrowing.
According to Son Hee Kul, a Korean businessman with significant knowledge in the public transport industry and interest in Africa-Korea business relations, there are bilateral sources of concessionary funding for such infrastructure projects, along with technical assistance for bus-lane design and technology for fare systems that minimize leakages.
There are also multilateral funding possibilities. For instance, the World Bank financed the Lagos Urban Transport Project, a BRT solution that mimics a subway. It provides high-capacity passenger services on dedicated bus lanes. It’s 22 km long connecting Lagos mainland with the island and runs a 16-hour operation, using 220 buses to move more than 200,000 passengers daily. In its first two years of operation, it moved more than 120 million passengers. The World Bank provided technical advice and a US$100 million IDA credit (Peltier-Thiberge, 2015). The World Bank partnered Ghana to execute a similar system some years ago but it was not completed as envisaged.
According to (Copenhagen Consensus Center, 2021), over the past six or so years, Ghana has purchased a fleet of modern buses apparently intended for a BRT system in Accra. What is missing are the extra dedicated bus lanes and terminal infrastructure and fare components for a BRT to be completed.
Overall, I strongly believe that such a system is necessary, considering the rate at which Accra in particular is expanding. The government of Ghana must act quickly. The longer we wait, the more complicated and costly it will become to implement.
I am a young Ghanaian student who is privileged to be studying in South Korea; a country with an even poorer economy than Ghana’s at the time of our independence in 1957 but is now one of the most innovative and technologically advanced countries in the world. As part of my studies, I am also meeting people who are sharing local and global knowledge with me. As a proud Ghanaian, I want to share that knowledge and the possibilities, and contribute to positive change in my country.
I believe strongly that a BRT system will be a game-changer for thousands of commuters in Accra and make their lives easier and more productive by revolutionizing the urban transport system.
>>>The writer is a third-year student at the Incheon National University, South Korea studying International Trade & Commerce. He can be reached on [email protected]
- Copenhagen Consensus Center. (2021). Ghana priorities: Urban Transportation. Retrieved 2021 йил 29-June from Copenhagen Consensus Center: cophengagenconsensusCenter.com/publication/ghana-priorities-urban-transportation-bus
- Institue for Transportation and Development Policy. (2021). What is BRT? Retrieved 2021 йил 27-June from ITDP: ITDP.org/library/standards-and-guides/the-bus-rapid-transit-standard/what-is-brt/
- Organization for Economic Development. (2016). Korea EDCF. Retrieved 2021 йил 28-June from OECD: oecd.org/development/evaluation/network-member-korea-edcf.htm
- Peltier-Thiberge, N. (2015 йил 8-December). Lagos’ Bus Rapid Transit System: Decongestitng and Depolluting Mega-Cities. (The World Bank Group) Retrieved 2021 йил 27-July from World Bank Blogs: https://blogs.worldbank.org/transport/lagos-bus-rapid-transit-system-decongesting-and-depolluting-mega-cities-0