Highway Parking for Safety in East Africa
Six East African countries are inching closer to finding a solution to the problem of lack of proper highway commercial heavy vehicles parking spaces along Northern Corridor that links the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa in Kenya to the region’s hinterland.
The Northern Corridor is experiencing increasing incidents of illegal parking on the ramps or highway shoulders.
Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have teamed up to improve safety along the corridor with an estimated 800kms of road network by putting up roadside stations (RSS) with adequate parking spaces. These were modeled on the Japanese Michinoeki, a system created two decades ago to provide “a safe, comfortable road traffic environment, and unique, lively spaces that showcased the individuality of a region.”
The initiative in East Africa is coordinated by the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTA), formed by the six countries to promote cooperative transit and transportation activities on the Northern Corridor. The objective is achieving an efficient and cost-effective transport system along the trans-regional highway. The RSS initiative is partly being funded by the World Bank.
“The Government of Kenya fully supports and embraces the setting up of RSS as a priority of developing the transport services and corridors to international standards as part of cargo, movement of people, as well as promoting regional business linkages,” said James Macharia, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport during a recent media briefing.
“The concept of RSS is aimed at creating designated rest stop points for traveling communities including trucks, traders and passengers, to not only promote socio-economic status of the NCTTA Member States, but also promote safer regional transport and trade along the Northern Corridor,” he said.
Currently, the Northern Corridor is experiencing increasing incidents of illegal parking on the ramps or highway shoulders by exhausted drivers posing serious highway safety hazard.
The situation is, however, likely to change as each of the six countries has approved the setting up RSS through public, private or public-private partnership model in accordance with regional guidelines developed by NCTTA.
Under the private sector initiative, private investors own the land where the RSS will be set up and will also construct the infrastructure, including a parking facility. With the public-private partnership, the government owns the land but the private sector is incorporated to build and operate the RSS including the parking lots.
However, each of the six countries has developed specific national guidelines aligned to NCTTA’s regional framework to ensure harmonization of the implementation of the RSS initiative.
In Kenya, the county government of Taita Taveta, one of the 47 county governments in the country, has completed setting up of the Maungu lorry park RSS that sits on six hectares off the Mombasa-Nairobi highway that is part of the Northern Corridor.
The parking has slots for 200 trucks at any one given time. The parking is connected to modern accommodation facilities, restaurants and a place where drivers and truck crew go for a medical check-up. The county government has leased out the buildings to private business operators who pay rent on an annual basis, but has retained the operatorship of the parking lots.
At the Maungu parking facility, each of the 200 trucks is allowed to park for free during the day as the truck crews utilize any of the several other services such as shops, offices, restaurants and health checkup.
The health check-up service has been set up by a group of commercial trucking companies, some which have made it mandatory for all their crew to undergo the examination before proceeding with the journey.
However, the parking service attracts $2 per truck if parked for the night. There are revenue clerks that collect the parking fee from the vehicles at the main entrance to RSS where a manual parking gate barrier has been installed. The parking charges are payable to the local county government, which also supervises and maintains the parking service and infrastructure.
More RSS are proposed after every 200kms along the entire Northern Corridor with cargo truck drivers expected to drive for at least four and half hours at an average speed of 50km/hr before taking a rest at the RSS that will be set up.
In Rwanda, the government sold the once state-run national bonded warehouse, Magerwa, with associated parking facilities to Singaporean medium-sized terminal operator and port equipment engineering provider Portek’s affiliate Portek East Africa Terminals Limited.
Portek East Africa manages the Magerwa Shyorongi Parking yard with parking slots for 250 oil tankers. The drivers access facilities and services such as water, sanitation facilities for bathing and washing their clothes, kitchen to prepare their food, in addition to medical check-up at a clinic within the parking yard. For every night the truck spends at the Magerwa parking yard, they pay a parking charge of $6.74.
The parking solution that NCTTA has designed and proposed for the six Northern Corridor sharing countries does not have smart parking features as yet. Although, owners of the heavy commercial vehicles plying highway have fitted the vehicles with electronic tracking system that enables both them and the state revenue collecting agencies in all these countries track cargo from the port of Mombasa to point of destination.
In fact, Kenya, Uganda Rwanda have developed Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) that connects their separate electronic cargo tracking systems for joint tracking of cargo from loading to offloading point on a twenty-four-hour basis.
NCTTA Executive Director Donat Bagula said the RECTS “enhances cargo security and curb diversions which will ultimately reduce transit time, cost of cargo transportation and enhance transparency as all stakeholders will have access to the system.”
With the well-designed parking facilities along the corridor, commercial trucks are expected to minimize random stops which NCTTA blames for cargo transportation inefficiencies.
Shem Oirere is Parking Today’s on the ground reporter in Africa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.