A road vision for the future

Editorial, Normal

THE traffic situation on the roads in the National Capital District is intolerable. It takes 45 minutes or more during peak hours to travel just four or five kilometres.
The reasons for this are evident: the poor state of the roads, poorly planned roads, unroadworthy vehicles, poor driver attitude including a total disregard for the rights of other road users, and lax enforcement of traffic rules, among others.
This is a dangerous cocktail of factors that is resulting in countless wasted man hours, high fuel consumption, environmental pollution, not to mention the stress caused to motorists and passengers crawling along at a snail’s pace after a hard day’s work.
It does not portray an image of a capital city of the future, one whose Government envisages double-digit growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) once the PNG liquefied natural gas project comes on stream by 2013.
What a rise in GDP will mean is an increase in the buying power of customers, including new wealthy landowners, and more vehicles on the roads.
The head of Ela Motors Toyota (Tshusho) PNG, David Purcell, was quoted in The National yesterday as predicting a 30% increase in vehicle sales over the next two years. Ela Motors has 57% of the PNG vehicle market share, according to Mr Purcell.
When Mr Purcell’s forecast is expanded to include the other vehicle dealers around Port Moresby, the rise is expected to be closer to 50% overall.
It is difficult to imagine how one is going to ever get around in this city with that many more vehicles on the road.
Also in The National yesterday, National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop proposed measures to tackle the severe traffic congestion.
Mr Parkop appeared on a talk back show on FM 100 on Tuesday, where he proposed that vehicles beyond a certain age should be decommissioned, starting with those manufactured before 1998.
This is a sound proposal and is widely enforced in high traffic density countries like Singapore and Japan.
Mr Parkop said that despite regular road blocks being carried out by police, there was still a high number of road accidents caused by unroadworthy vehicles.
Clever motorists were using mobile phones to alert each other about road blocks, and thus escaping confiscation of their unroadworthy vehicles.
Mr Parkop is to be applauded for his numerous initiatives to improve the general outlook of the city. This newspaper has regularly highlighted the new developments and how they improve citizens’ confidence in their city and indeed add value to their quality of life.
But new water fountains and flower beds are not going to help cars move faster. We will need several Poreporena Freeways criss-crossing the city, to alleviate the chronic traffic congestion.
What is needed is an approach of mammoth proportions. Just like Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru has been empowered by the National Government to secure financing for the PNG LNG-related projects in his province, Mr Parkop should be similarly mandated by the Government to approach lending institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to secure financing for this purpose.
Hundreds of millions of kina will be needed, perhaps even a billion. The exact amount will only be determined by a comprehensive feasibility study to consider every aspect of this proposal.
Such a loan could be repaid by implementing the toll model. The builders of the roads could be given, for example, 20 or 30 years to recoup the loans by setting up toll booths and charging road users for the privilege.
This road financing model has also been tried in both developed and developing countries. One such project in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai recently, resulted in the construction of a sea link between two suburbs, that has reduced travel time by more than 90 minutes in each direction.
We will need someone with such a vision, and the ability to see it through, to drive Port Moresby’s march to a prosperous future.