IT IS no secret that many of the roads frequently used by heavily laden trucks are in a bad state throughout the country.
Over a period of time, some of them begin to appear as if their surfaces had never been tarmacked at any point.
While it is true that some deteriorate easily and rapidly due to shoddy workmanship by contractors who do not pay particular attention to important factors such as durability of the surfaces and safety of users, among others, heavy-goods vehicles worsen the damage to the roads.
Lives of motorists, commuters and pedestrians are in danger each time they use roads that are full of those large rough holes formed by traffic, besides bad weather. The Kafue-Mazabuka road has in the recent past been in the spotlight over the same reason until Government, through its road agencies, stepped in to start repairing it.
In the capital, Lusaka, one important road that has continuously suffered grave damage under the heavy weight of trucks transporting goods from the north to the south and vice-versa, even beyond the country’s borders, is Lumumba. The bad state of the road worsens the congestion during peak hours, apart from endangering other road users while drivers dodge potholes.
To maintain high-standards, long-lasting road infrastructure that should ensure the safety of all road users and help prevent damage to motor vehicles, Government has issued a statutory instrument (SI) on the quota system for all bulk cargo transporters.
This measure has been long overdue, especially that one of the major factors leading to the poor state of our roads is obvious – over 90 percent of heavy goods in transit have been moved on roads. But it is good that, now with the introduction of the SI, transporters will be compelled to transport about 30 percent of their bulk goods by rail.
We hope that this measure will come into effect in the next 30 days, as stated by Government. The assurance by Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba that Government will continue to improve operations of Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) and Tanzania Zambia Railways (TAZARA) is of utmost importance. This should ensure that the two firms effectively handle transportation of bulk cargo.
Any delays in transportation of goods for clients who are in business, has an adverse effect. For instance, if raw materials are held up on the rail tracks for one reason or another, production will suffer.
This would in turn have a ripple effect of loss of revenue, delayed payment of salaries, industrial unrest, shortage of produced goods on the market and a rise in prices of the few goods available – all because of poor transportation services.
This should not be allowed to happen.
Government and all other shareholders should pull in one direction and pump resources into the railway sector to enhance ZRL and TAZARA’s operational capacity. Transporters of heavy goods such as Dangote Cement, who have already expressed willingness to move goods by rail, should be assured that the two railway firms will be both efficient and effective in moving bulk cargo over long distances within considerably short periods of time.
Once a win-win situation is created as 30 percent heavy-cargo transportation is pushed to the railway, good road safety and reduction in the cost of doing business will be achieved. After all, transporting goods by rail is the most economical.
Moreover, trains are least affected by usual weather turbulences like rain, compared to other modes of transport.
Government’s resolve to invest not only in the railway industry, but also in the road and aviation sectors, among others, is indeed good for the country’s development. It is high time Zambia truly became a transport and communications hub in the region.