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Monday, May 23, 2022

Tema motorway: 30,000 cars pay tolls daily but no facelift


Despite the various kinds of vehicles that ply the Accra-Tema motorway and the huge funds it generates daily, the 49 years old road is yet to benefit from its earnings.

The deplorable motorway is the only road network in Ghana that is used by at least 30,000 vehicles per day, the Head of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Advisory Unit, Ekow Coleman, told Business Day in an interview in Accra.

“So far, it is only the Accra-Tema motorway which gives those numbers. This means that it is the only project which is self-financing,” he pointed out.

There are three categories of vehicles that ply the motorway namely commercial vehicles (trotro), private vehicles) and big trucks. The motorway has 12 toll booths.  Commercial vehicles (trotro) and 4x4s are charged GH₵ 1.00, while big trucks are charged GH₵ 2.00.

If 30,000 vehicles use the motorway in a day, and assuming each vehicle is charged one cedi per trip, the road would be raking in GH₵ 30,000 in a day, GH₵ 210,000 in a week, GH₵ 840,000 in a month and GH₵ 10,080,000 in a year.

In 2013, it was reported that the Ghana Highway Authority raked in GH₵36000 daily from the Tema motorway. Juxtaposing the huge amounts made daily from the motorway then, the report decried the road’s deplorable state and accused some toll collectors of sitting on the cash which is expected to be used to rehabilitate the deploring road.  Almost a year after the report, the state of the Accra-Tema motorway is still deplorable as it is yet to see any massive rehabilitation which will give it the facelift and status it had in its hay days.

The 19-kilometre highway linking Accra to Ghana’s main industrial and port hub, Tema, is today a pale shadow of itself. Except for some minor repairs on the road, there has not been any major rehabilitation on it, leaving gaping potholes along the stretch, which poses a hazard to motorists and commuters.

Tema is the most important entry port in Ghana, handling around 70% of total maritime cargo to and from the country. The Tema Port spans a land area of 3.9 million square metres and is flanked by an industrial city. The port receives an average of over 1650 vessel calls per year and these comprise an assortment of container vessels, general cargo vessels, tankers, Ro-Ro and cruise vessels amongst many others.

The port’s environs serve as a logistic point for activities of Inland Clearance Depots (ICDs), Warehouses, Transport and haulage companies, freight forwarders and related service centres.

Seventy per cent of national trade and traffic is done through Tema port with additional volumes of trade and traffic to and from the landlocked countries of Burkina Faso Mali and Niger.  But the volume of throughput now far exceeds the port’s handling capacity, leading to long queuing for ships and slower trade. But plans are afoot to rapidly expand the port.

The Head of the PPP Advisory Unit, Ekow Coleman said only the Accra-Tema Motorway meets the requirement for the Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Unit model under the Public Private Partnership initiative which aims to give a number of roads a facelift.Under the model, private investors will finance the upgrading of the roads and transfer ownership to government after recouping their investment through tolls.

History of Tema Motorway
The Tema Motorway, the 19-kilometre stretch of highway linking Accra with Ghana’s industrial and manufacturing hub, Tema, was one of the numerous prestigious projects conceived and built by the first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

The Convention People’s Party (CPP), which was in government in the First Republic, built a modern harbour and a township in Tema which needed an excellent highway to facilitate trade and commerce between the new town and the rest of the country through Accra.

The project formed part of the Seven-Year Development Plan (1963-1970) of the CPP government intended to transform the economic and material conditions of the country.

The motorway project, which was started in 1964 and opened to traffic in 1965, was labelled ‘prestigious’ by the erstwhile National Liberation Movement (NLM), an amalgam of parties opposed to the CPP, which saw the project as a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money.

The motorway was fashioned after the autobahn in Germany and was purposed to be the first motorway system that would link the major cities and towns across the country. It is, however, sad to note that successive governments after Nkrumah abandoned the idea of building more motorways and even left the Tema Motorway to deteriorate to indescribable levels.

The main feature of the motorway is a dual carriageway with a median or central reservation area which separates the two carriageways which terminate at both ends with a toll booth. Efforts were made by the CPP government to install street lights on the motorway, but the overthrow of the government by the National Liberation Council (NLC) on February 24, 1966 put paid to that.

The absence of street lights led to an upsurge in criminal activities along the highway, especially during the night, a situation which made it extremely dangerous to use the road during that period.

For more than 30 years, the highway did not witness any major rehabilitation, leading to the development of numerous potholes which caused deadly accidents and traffic congestion.

The development of the potholes was primarily due to the usage of the road by vehicles loaded with cargo exceeding the permissible axle load weight for the highway. In addition, lack of reflectors, breakdown vehicles and unsafe bridges made driving on the highway in the night unsafe.

However, in 2002, the Kufuor administration attempted to provide street lights for the motorway to abate the crime rate on the highway which defied solutions provided by the country’s security concerns. The project was to commemorate the country’s Golden Jubilee, but it was suspended due to cable thefts.  Although the regime deployed plainclothes security men along the stretch, the move did not yield the desired result of arresting the people responsible for the cable theft and other crimes.

In 2009, the Mills government undertook the rehabilitation of the motorway at a cost of GHc500, 000, with part of it being constructed with epoxy mortar cement which dried in three days. The exercise also involved the replacement of concrete slabs which had developed potholes and the repair of the asphalt surface on the shoulders of the road.

It, however, still remains a pale shadow of its former self, as more work is needed to be done to transform it into a first-class highway.

Story by: Vincent Baffour-Acheampong & Elvis Adjetey


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