Transport study calls for planned road repair, regulated minibus fares
Stabroek News
November 18, 2006

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The transport sector network needs among other things more loading capacity in the Berbice River for expected increased shipping, more efficient planning on road maintenance and regulated minibus fares, a study has said.

The Guyana Transport Sector Study, conducted by German firm GOPA Consultants and local firm E&A Consultants Inc said that while there appeared to be no shortage of capacity to handle the traditional exports from the Berbice River, a second mid-stream loading basin would be required off New Amsterdam. This has already been proposed by the private sector.

The report said this would be particularly necessary if, as expected, refractory bauxite is to be shipped from Linden in shipments of between 5,000 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes and provided that maintenance dredging is undertaken on the Demerara River.

The report suggested that port facilities, especially in Georgetown, be improved. About 50 vessels are dispatched each month on average in Georgetown, whereas at New Amsterdam only about 10 vessels call per month. And while in Georgetown all types of vessels dock, in New Amsterdam it is mainly vessels to be loaded with bauxite and tankers supplying petroleum products.

It is noteworthy that the majority of vessels calling at Georgetown are container vessels, although there is no dedicated container terminal. Provisional planning measures should be undertaken to enable such a container terminal to proceed once demand warrants it, the report said. The port traffic for 2003 in Georgetown harbour amounted to some 1 million tonnes of exports and some 0.9 million tonnes of imports.

The Maritime Adminis-tration Department (MA-RAD) provides navigation services. And though it has made an operating surplus in its first two years of operation (2003/04), it has been required to pass most of this surplus on, in an effective cross-subsidy to the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD). This, the study argues, should be adjusted so that the T&HD earns its own funds rather than be subsidized by MARAD.

With regard to T&HD operations, the report said immediate action was required to support cross-Berbice ferry operations in the heavy traffic period leading up to the opening of the fixed river crossing of the Berbice and possibly the testing of a re-introduced river service between Stanleytown and Ituni.

Immediate action was required in Essequibo as well, it said, to support cross-river ferry operations and these could be directed separately at passenger and freight services. The latter measures would include new stellings for passengers at Supenaam and adapting stellings for the roll on/roll off (Ro-Ro) system in which vehicles enter and exit ferries through the stern and bows.

Medium-term investments suggested on the Essequibo include the purchase of a passenger ferry with a 50-60 person capacity and a speed of 20-25 kph. Such vessels could be bought second hand at attractive prices on the Russian market or assembled in Guyana, the report said.

Road maintenance

The study noted that historically funds for road maintenance have been inadequate. Though funds doubled in 2001-2004, they only reached about $60 million per annum, a figure far below international norms for a primary network of over 400 km, and specifically below the US$4.9 million formerly suggested as an appropriate target by road maintenance consultants.

The report suggests where funds could be gathered and also points to the Guyana Energy Agency's data for 2004 which estimates that road users pay approximately $7,000 million per annum in consumption tax on fuel. It is worth noting, the report said, that $2,500 million per annum should be sufficient to fund routine and periodic maintenance, which would include the Linden-Lethem highway, leaving a similar annual amount for maintenance of additional 'undeclared' roads or urban roads, or for construction of new roads.

Traffic flows outside Georgetown are quite low and there is no immediate requirement for upgrading/extending the road network, though the paved network requires the introduction of a priority periodic maintenance programme.

It is proposed that tariff setting for minibus and ferry fares be brought under the responsibility of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) which already holds generally similar powers for other utility providers. With regard to the Harbour Bridge the report notes that ideally it should be operated as a self-supporting commercial operation free of price controls, but also placed under the responsibility of the PUC.

The objective would be to ensure the interest of passengers so tariffs remain viable to cover operational costs and remain affordable and socially acceptable. The report recommended a study to review user fees in the transport sector.

There is a problem with urban road capacity in Georgetown which could be handled by traffic management measures in the short-to- medium-term, for which a detailed study is recommended.

In the medium term, the study suggested the possibility of developing a ring road system to improve traffic flow and avoid congesting the central area. The future-planning requirement in respect of the city's port operations and the Demerara Harbour Bridge River crossing would be investigated through further feasibility study.

The road between Lethem and Linden will in time require funding for bridge replacement and road upgrading. Further studies should be undertaken to determine the possible size, timing and funding source for such investments.

There seems to be no rational basis for building new railway lines unless new and substantial sources of traffic materialize.

The possibility of the use of rail transport should be done as an integral part of industrial development and should be designed, built, paid for and operated by the potential users such as mining companies.

For efficiency measures within the transport sector the report laid down a number of points such as setting deadlines for financial autonomy of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation (CJIAC), and implementation of Civil Aviation Act regulations. It also suggested the establishment of a port council for Georgetown, strengthening of MARAD's corporate planning as well as the setting up of an explicit coastal shipping service.

It said government should encourage large bus services to reduce the fare on busy routes, rationalise urban bus routes and improve enforcement of traffic regulations, introduce better signing for road safety and clearer parameters for enforcement.

The study noted that at present the Ministry of Finance is seeking funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for infrastructural maintenance and implementation would necessitate institutional strengthening with which the donor community can help in terms of technical assistance and consulting services.

(Christopher Yaw)