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Road Planning Should Extend Beyond Our Borders
And Into Countries Within East African Community

Coastweek -- The next part of travelling that I will touch on is the experience when one travels by road, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

This is not about travel when one is driving but when one is in public transport.

The first thing that always worries me is whether I will survive to the next pee stop.

In Kenya and indeed in many African countries, there appears to be no planning for the convenience of road travellers.

The governments’ primary focus is only on building roads in the name of providing adequate infrastructure and there is very little consideration to the needs of the users.

The hardware provided is always around driving and driving safety.

Most amenities are constructed where trading posts appear along the highways and roads that have been built.

A lot of times these again are not planned but just happen – mainly driven by the needs of long distance truck drivers who will start taking breaks at a certain point and soon an enterprising person will start providing some service – even as simple as selling bananas to the truck drivers.

Very soon the truck drivers begin to demand for more things and the variety if trade at this unscheduled stop starts to increase.

In time semi-permanent structures appear and then more permanent structures. Other facilities follow as the place turns into a small township.

The passenger transport soon begins to stop at the location but it is not because there is a planned convenience facility for travellers.

It will purely be because the bus company or the drivers have decided that it is convenient to stop for their passengers or that they need a place where the can pick up passengers and more often than not.

This has led to the development of stops like Kikopey and Salgaa.

There are similar examples in Uganda and Tanzania where there is thriving business in places that were completely uninhabited barely ten years ago.

The other reason that stops develop is the inefficiency of weighbridge stations.

These locations have been established in most of the traffic corridors in the Eastern Africa region – to control and manage the axle loading of vehicles so that they do not destroy or damage roads – a valuable piece of infrastructure.

Because of the delays which are minimally a couple of hours but more realistically six to seven hours, truck drivers need services and these have mushroomed slowly over time.

The best example of this is Mlolongo near Nairobi and another one near Gilgil.

This is in contrast to the experience when one travels in the so called first world countries.

Here one finds that the state and sub state agencies have all sat and agreed that there must be public facilities provided for the convenience of its citizens irrespective of their place in society.

Public facilities within towns are plenty and well signposted.

When it comes to travelling by road, there are plenty of stops available with conveniences and in some instances accommodation.

They will be built such that they can accommodate both trucks as well as passenger vehicles.

Studies are done to establish both the need as well as predicting likely future scenarios.

Some of the stops are built to achieve a different end such as controlling traffic or creating centres where certain activities can be carried out.

These stops do not spring out of frustrations of drivers or truckers – like happens in our region, they are properly planned and they are well laid out and the amenities reflect the kind of needs that have been assessed as needed.

They are also designed for future expansion which will happen in a structured manner.

We need to adopt the same type of thinking in order to improve the travel experience in our country and in our neighbouring countries as well.

Planning should extend beyond our borders to countries where we have common aspirations especially as we are joined by the fact that we are part of the East African Community.

Travel by road should not be a lottery but one that can be safely planned and predicted based on the provision of services as well as facilities that make the journey a pleasurable one.

As Kachumbari says, planning, planning, more planning and then excellent execution is all that is needed to make life work!




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