By Simche Malinji Williams.
Intern, the University of East London, United Kingdom
President Bio’s government is set at last to go into a contract agreement for the construction of the Lungi-Targrin Bridge linking the capital Freetown to Lungi in the Northwest Region that hosts the Freetown International Airport. This is if what is being heard from the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation is anything to go by. This comes after several speculations about the possibility of the bridge construction, a capital-intensive project that the Sierra Leone Government cannot venture into alone but of which the president made a promise during his campaign trail and reaffirmed in his maiden State of the Nation Address in the Well of Parliament upon assuming power in 2018. According to Sidique Sillah who informed the media in the weekly government press meet on Thursday 22nd October of the ambitious project, the government is gearing up to engage a contracting company to sign the agreement by end of November this year. He gave the name of the company as Shuman, a company he went on, with a track record in Africa for constructing an International airport in Togo. The deputy minister was updating the media on the ministry’s recent activities when he was asked to throw light on the much-trumpeted bridge construction that many are beginning to believe would not materialise soon.
Many also see it as not too prudent for development but more political and much the same as the Mamamah airport project that the Bio Government discarded which viability was questioned by the World Bank.
The minister could not dilate on the source of funding for the bridge construction project, but it is believed that it was going to be sole-sourced by the contractor who will manage it for a certain period in a toll operation.
On other issues, the minister revealed that the government now has a fleet policy to determine which civil servant should get which type of vehicle, maintenance and disposal of such vehicles.
Also on decongesting traffic in the city, Minister Sillah said since the city is now over-congested and movement of people and goods is problematic, they would soon launch a pilot project to move people and good en masse through a corridor to be created from Waterloo in the far East to Number 2 River in the far West of the city. He said it would
Enhance the free flow of traffic in the corridor as he disclosed that 100 air-conditioned buses would soon be purchased for the pilot project.
He also informed that the United States Coast Guards have validated the Sierra Leone seaport and that plans are underway to construct another seaport in the Southern region to decongest the current one in Freetown
The minister also spoke of the importance of sea transportation especially as the country’s topography is between 30-35% riverine, he also said that the government would try to modernize the current outdated landing sites for ferries, saying serious negotiations are ongoing with investors on a Private Public Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
On-air transportation, Mr Sidique Sillah said that internal flights would soon commence at the Hastings Airfield and that PAVI Fort will construct the terminals and overpasses.
He continued that the government would by the end of November also sign the contract for the purchase of 200 buses and that private commercial transport owners would be formed into cooperatives to run the busses with profits shared with government by percentages.
“Government wants to enhance the capacity of the private sector so we will have to transform the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC) into a regulatory body.
He also made mention of reintroducing the railway which he said was phased out for political reasons. “A feasibility study will shortly be conducted for the introduction of the railway,” he noted, as he also disclosed that courses related to the transport sector would soon be introduced at Fourah Bay College the University of Sierra Leone.