The conversion of bus stops in the Accra metropolis turning into mini lorry stations by some ‘trotro’ and taxi drivers has reached alarming levels.
Many designated bus stops on major routes in the national capital are now serving as mini lorry stations, creating gridlocks, especially during the rush hours. Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act, 2004 (Act 638) prohibits the parking of motor vehicles on the verge or shoulders of a road or on any land situated between two carriageways. However, some trotro and taxi drivers disregard the law with careless abandon and the police appear to be helpless in dealing with the situation. In February 2014, the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service issued an ultimatum stipulating an April 2014 deadline to drivers parking at such bus stops to stop the practice or risk being dealt with by the police.
A Daily Graphic team went round the city and observed about 35 of such bus stops where drivers indiscriminately drop off and pick up passengers, against road traffic regulations. Some of the places visited were the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, the Kaneshie Market, Bubuashie, Darkuman, Abeka, Labone, the Central Business District (CBD), Teshie, Nungua and Nima. The Daily Graphic found that the bus stops at PTC, Neoplan, Circle Overhead and near Vodafone’s former head office, all within the vicinity of the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, had been converted into mini lorry stations.
Although there were no less than five designated bus terminals in the area, they had rapidly developed into mini stations, managed by station masters. The Neoplan Bus Stop, for instance, had been converted into a taxi rank, with station masters to steer its operations. The team observed that some of the station masters carried canes to drive away trotroand taxi drivers who were not ‘members’ of the station. Even those drivers who were members of the station were required to pay loading fees to the station masters, some of whom had become ‘monsters’.
The situation was not different at the Kaneshie Market, First Light, Darkuman Junction and Odorkor Traffic Light bus stops on the Kaneshie-Odorkor-Mallam road. At the Kaneshie Market, it was observed that in spite of the heavy presence of officials of the MTTD in the area, the entire stretch from the Kaneshie Market to the Mpamprom Bus Stop had become ‘permanent’ mini lorry stations for trotros, taxis and long-distance vehicles.
Other bus stops in the capital where the unlawful practice goes on include Odorna and Abeka Junction on the Accra–Kumasi Highway, Dzorwulu Junction, Spanner, near the Accra Mall (Tetteh Quarshie Interchange), Police Headquarters, Labone, Danquah Circle and Nima, near the Nima Police Station on the Ring Road. At the Kingsway Bus Stop, near the COCOBOD Head Office, and the Railways Bus Stop, both in the CBD of Accra, it was observed that trotro drivers also took advantage of the heavy traffic in the area to pick passengers in the middle of the road.
‘No space for us’
In an interview, some of the drivers blamed their involvement in the unlawful act on their inability to secure space at the various bus terminals in the metropolis. “All the terminals in Accra are choked. Meanwhile, new commercial vehicles are being registered on a daily basis. Unless you have strong connections, you cannot be guaranteed space at the stations,” Kwasi Nyarkoh, a trotro driver, said.
Another driver, who identified himself only as Joe Wise, blamed the situation on some passengers who ignored the bus terminals and rather waited at the bus stops for vehicles, which encouraged most drivers to operate at the bus stops.
“It is very painful to struggle for space at the terminals and not get passengers in the end. Some of us abandoned the terminals because it is easy to get passengers at the bus stops,” he said.
Implications on road safety
In an interview, the Head of Communications at the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), Mr Kwame Kodua Atuahene, described the trend as an act of indiscipline on the road owing to failure on the part of the authorities to enforce existing regulations. He said the situation had negative implications on the safety of passengers and motorists, given that some floating drivers drove recklessly in their quest to outrun other vehicles for the next passenger.
“We urge the MTTD and the local authorities to enforce the law to make the roads safe for all of us to use,” he said.
‘Men on the ground’
When contacted, the Commanding Officer of the Central MTTD, Accra, Mr Anderson Fosu-Ackaah, said the directorate was aware of the trend and had deployed some personnel to clamp down on the perpetrators.
He said the MTTD had prosecuted scores of drivers who fell foul of the law, adding that it had been a challenge for it to totally deal with the menace because “Accra is big and we cannot be everywhere at the same time”.
He said some officials of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) had officially written to the MTTD about the matter, prompting him to deploy men at strategic areas, including the Tema Station, to maintain law and order.
For his part, the Public Relations Officer of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Mr Gilbert Ankrah, said the Chief Executive of the AMA, Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, met with some officials of the GPRTU early this year to discuss ways to combat the canker.
He said the assembly had deployed a task force at areas within its jurisdiction, including the CBD, to enforce the law.