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A 210-KILOMETRE stretch of the Great North Road from Lusaka to Kapiri Mposhi is earmarked for upgrade into a dual carriageway. PICTURE: CHAMBO NG’UNI

Great North Road rehab long overdue

THE  loss of two lives on the Great North Road in Chinsali on Sunday is regrettable.  We send our sincere condolences to the bereaved families during this time of sorrow.
We also feel for the 38 passengers who sustained injuries in the accident which occurred around 03:00 hours in which a Nakonde-bound Higer bus overturned after the driver hit into a tree.
The accident draws our particular attention because it is the latest in what had become a string of fatal mishaps on this Nakonde-Isoka-Chinsali-Mpika stretch of the Great North Road.
A week hardly passes without a report of an accident on this highway.   Although some of the accidents are said to be caused by driver error, others are evidently a result of the poor state of the road.
In this latest incident, the driver of the bus is said not to have seen a tree which had fallen on the road because it was raining.  This is most unfortunate because you wouldn’t expect trees, especially the big ones, to be too close to the road.
We have no control over nature with regard to rains, but surely we can make the roads safer by ensuring that the sides of the highways are cleared of trees and other natural or man-made hazards.
Those who drive on these roads should also take extra care to protect the lives in their ‘hands’.
We have heard of instances where drivers of public vehicles resort to conduct that can endanger the lives of passengers and in some cases, not taking due care of their passengers.
The rainy season comes with its dangers and any cautious driver should know that fully well and take due care on the roads so that their passengers get to their destinations safely.
The need for extra caution on the roads could, however, be eased if the roads are in a constantly good state.  This is what is desired for the Great North Road, which is an important import and export route for Zambia.
It also caters for traffic in transit for Zambia’s neighbours in southern, eastern and central Africa.
It is, therefore, a major revenue earner for the country and a road that a number of Zambians, along its vast stretch, depend on.
We are aware that Government has secured funds for the various rehabilitation works under the Link Zambia 8000 project and there is need for now to consider a few points that would enhance safety for the users.
The Road Transport and Safety Agency ( RTSA), as an agency charged with ensuring  safety of road users, should increase its patrols on the roads.
Such patrols will be a pro-active measure to help thwart any potential dangers on the roads; like in this instance, the tree that had fallen on the road could have been noticed earlier.
Increased patrols further help to instil discipline on the roads. The mere presence of RTSA officers on the road makes drivers observe road rules to avoid reprimands from the officers.
As mentioned earlier, we are happy that Government has set aside some funds for the rehabilitation of the road. We hasten to say that this project is long overdue.
We urge Government to expedite the works on the road so that it continues to bring in the much needed revenue for the country.
As part of the infrastructure that facilitates trade, there is need to make the road wider so that it accommodates traffic comfortably.
Muchinga Province Permanent Secretary Bright Nundwe observes that the road is very narrow, and it is in light of this that it should be widened to make it safer for drivers to go through it.
There are some stretches, soon after Nakonde and elsewhere, where the road is completely eaten away. These parts endanger road users and we are confident that the rehabilitation works will pay particular attention to those areas.
While Government is doing its part, drivers should also play their role to ensure safety of passengers and other road users like cyclists and pedestrians.