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02.02.2010 General News

Protests herald new road tolls

By Stephen Odoi-Larbi & Michael Boateng - Ghanaian Chronicle
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Commuters and commercial drivers who ply the Accra-Tema motorway and Kasoa road have vehemently protested against the new road toll which has shot up from an initial Gp0.08 to a record high of GH¢1.00, representing about 500 percent increase.

They argued that the new tariffs were going to worsen the plight of motorists, who are already walloping in abject poverty. “We are the ones going to suffer at the end of the day. These commercial drivers are going to pass the cost onto us,” noted Cecilia Owusu, a trader who uses the Kasoa-Accra road for her daily transactions.

Commuters plying the Kasoa-Accra road in the early hours of Monday were left stranded, as commercial drivers embarked on a sit down strike to register their protest against the government on the new road user fee. The commercial drivers also threatened to increase their fares, should government go ahead with the new tax, in order to meet their “daily sales”.

Commuters, for fear of being late to work, had to pay exorbitant fares to their various destinations in the capital city, Accra. Others walked long distances to join commercial vehicles that had managed to a make a u-turn on the opposite side of the toll both.

A local radio station based in Kasoa, Pink FM, reported about how some commercial drivers blocked the main Kasoa-Accra road, and threatened to burn car tyres, but for the timely intervention of some Policemen who came to rescue the situation. This resulted in heavy traffic along the road.

Joy FM, a local radio station based in Accra, also reported on how some aggrieved commercial drivers devised a strategy to pay in bigger domination to create change problems.

It was however, a field day activity, for commercial drivers that belonged to the CMB-Kasoa and Kasheshie-Kasoa local Branches of the GPRTU, as their counterparts from Kasoa embarked on sit down strike.

Some of the commercial vehicles who ply the road about five times a day, now pay GH¢10.00, as a result of the new road user fee which took effect on Monday, February 1st 2010.

Inquiries into the operations of some of the commercial drivers revealed that some drivers make daily sales ranging from GH¢30.00- GH¢40.00 depending on the type of vehicle.

When The Chronicle contacted the offices of the CMB-Kasoa local branch of the GPRTU, its Chairman J.Q. Otoo, contended that the decision was to bail out the commuters as well as to help the drivers meet their “daily sales.” “If you look at how people were stranded early in the morning waiting for vehicles to convey them to the city, you will cry for them. It's a pity but that was the only option we have” he added.

He questioned what the leadership of the Ghana Road Fund and the Ministry of Roads and Highways have been doing with the money generated from the road worth certificate. He told The Chronicle that the leadership of the Ghana Road Fund and the Ministry of Roads and Highways failed to recognize the GPRTU in the discussion process, but went ahead with their unilateral decision.

“They did not engage the GPRTU in the discussion exercise. If they had engaged us, we would have come out with a fruitful deliberation that would have been best for all of us,” he noted.

But National Vice Chairman of the GPRTU, Alhaji Issah Tetteh, in a telephone interview with Peace FM appealed to commercial drivers not to increase their fares, since his outfit was going to engage the leadership of the Ghana Road Fund and the Ministry of Roads and Highways in discussion to review the current price.

According to him, since it was Parliament that rectified the current price, it would be appropriate to channel all concerns to their doorsteps for consideration.

A government official, Francis Degbe, in an interview with Peace FM justified why the increment was necessary. He said most of the roads in the country are in deplorable state and, therefore, needed to be re-constructed, hence the need to comply with the new directive. “The last time the road toll was increased was in January 1999. Since then, the rate has been uneconomical and we need to help ourselves in order to survive,” noted Mr. Degbe,

Meanwhile, reports reaching The Chronicle indicated that some drivers in Sunyani and surrounding communities where there are toll booths failed to work as a form of protest against the new toll fees.

The most affected areas within Sunyani included Dumasua, Mantukwa and Ayakomaso, whilst those beyond Sunyani like Nsoatre, Berekum, Dormaa and Bechem were also affected.

Taxi Drivers who use the Sunyani-Dumasua road increased their fares from 40GHp to 70GHp, whilst their counterparts who ply the Sunyani - Berekum and Dormaa had a 100% increase on their fares.

Some of the Drivers argued that public education on the new road tolls was inadequate, and thus called for an urgent explanation for the 500% increase.

With the new rates, motor bikes now pay 10GHP, Pick-Ups, Agricultural Tractor pay 50GHP, light bus, Mummy Wagon pay GH¢1.00, heavy bus, light goods truck (2axles) pay GH¢1.50, with medium goods truck (3axles), heavy goods truck (4axles) pay GH¢2.00 and Heavy goods truck (5 or more axles) pay GH¢2.50.

Information gathered from Dumasua, a town few kilometers from Sunyani indicates that the drivers, chiefs and opinion leaders are preparing to petition the Regional Minister, Regional Highway Authority and the Sunyani West District Chief Executive to quickly intervene for a reasonable charge on drivers who ply Sunyani-Dumasua.

This came up after some community members had appealed to the Assembly member at Dumasua to do something about the fares being charged by drivers.

Information gathered by The Chronicle also indicate that some private school authorities within Sunyani ordered drivers of their school buses not to go beyond the toll booth to pick students, insisting that parents who have their children living in areas like Dumasua, Mantukwa and Ayakomaso should make their own arrangement on how to get their children to school, since they cannot afford to pay such charges.

Meanwhile, some of the school authorities said they were going to have emergency PTA meetings to discuss the situation after which they would know what to do, as they described the increase as unbearable.

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