MTA launches $52m transportation project   

The transport sector in Sierra Leone has a lot of challenges, which affect millions of people in the country. These hurdles need urgent reforms in order to improve the sector. In an attempt to map out said solutions, the Ministry of Transportation and Aviation (MTA) under the Sierra Leone Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project (SLIRUMP) engaged journalists at Youyi Building in Brook fields to enlighten them on the $52 million World Bank funded project.

According to SLIRUMP Project Manager Umaru Katta, the project aims to improve access to quality public transport and address climate resilience and road safety in the Western Area. He said the project will run for five years – 2019 to 2024, specifically in Freetown.  The project also offers an integrated approach in responding to the challenges faced by the urban transport sector, as greater Freetown is now at a turning point in becoming an engine for transformation of the country, he said.

Katta pointed out that the overall budget for the project is $52 million, disclosing that the World Bank provided a $50 million grant and Sierra Leone government the additional $2 million. He told journalists the SLIRUMP project has three main components, among them to modernise and properly organise the public transport sector and build institutional and human capacity.

The project considers both the eastern and western corridors, as bus stops, modern transport terminals, bridges and markets will be constructed in the demarcated areas with the intention to ease traffic congestion in the city which, he said, has been a major problem in the country’s road network.

“We aren’t going to be opening roads but manage the space we have,” the project manager said. In his submission, the Project Consultant, Akindele Beckley said they are partnering with Freetown City Council, the Ministry of Finance, Driver’s Union and other key institutions to ensure the project’s success.

Beckley revealed that initially they only had $20 million to run the project, but with the huge World Bank and government intervention, they are in a better position now to fully start the implementation of the project. He said under this project, buses will be procured, solar traffic lights introduced and the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC) transformed into a regulator. He said they have held consultations with drivers and other stakeholders on the start of the implementation stage of the project.

Meanwhile, SLIRUMP has a resettlement and action plan package, as close to 1,000 people living on the east-west corridor of Freetown will be directly affected by the project.

By Mohamed J. Bah