Fuel-levies to subsidise N$185 million traffic management system

Public questions financial prudence
Otis Daniels_Finck
Swakopmund ∙ [email protected]

The N$185 million price tag for the high-tech traffic management system along the 145km stretch of the B2 road between Usakos and Swakopmund will come from fuel levies.

“The NRSC (National Road Safety Council) receives fuel levies from the ministry of Mines and Energy, through the National Energy Fund at 0.026 cents per litre from on-road fuel consumption. A sizable amount will be allocated from this revenue stream for the next couple of years until the centre is completed,” NRSC executive secretary Eugene Tendekule told Erongo.

He responded to questions stemming from public concerns that the project, with the initial phase - the Arandis Emergency Response and Traffic Management Centre (AERTMC), launched last week, was amounted to the mismanagement of tax-payers funds.

AERTMC includes a control centre at the Arandis turn-off and several post-mounted cameras and message boards along the B2 to monitor traffic, identify vehicles and drivers and serve as a ‘witness’ to accidents and other road rule transgressions.

Many Namibians questioned the costs involved, arguing that instead of wasting money on a ‘big-brother’ concept, the money could have been used to make the road wider and safer, or spend the money on feeding the hungry, building houses, schools and hospitals. There were also claims that the project was a foot in the door for corruption within the public sector.

A paramedic who has attended to accidents on this stretch of road however reasoned that a single life saved, is worth much more than N$185 million.

Since the implementation of the system, there have been various accidents and traffic rule transgressions captured by the system and attended to. Last week, a few days after the system was launched, about four kilometres from Arandis, a motorist lost control of his vehicle before it overturned. Although he suffered serious head injuries, he is still alive. Emergency response representatives told Erongo that had it not been for the system, the response to the accident would have been slower, and it would have likely cost the victim his life.

At the launch of the AERTMC, it was reiterated by various speakers that the system will help improve Namibia’s status from being the country with the highest road accident rate in Africa. Namibia loses an average of 700 people a year to road accidents. “This is a death toll the country and the economy cannot afford,” deputy prime minister Netumbi Nandi-Ndaitwa stated in her keynote address at the launch.

The initial phase of the system comprises five poles, each with two-way cameras, placed along 50km of road east and west of Arandis. This section was identified as one of the country’s accident hotspots in Namibia. There are also three electronic boards to share information with motorists about their driving behaviour, and road conditions ahead, amongst others. The cameras and boards are linked to the control centre, which is connected to various emergency and law enforcement agencies on a 24/7 basis to ensure speedy response. The current centre at Arandis will be replaced by a permanent structure, which will also include a fire station and other emergency vehicles.

AERTMC is the initiative of a consortium consisting of the National Road Safety Council, the Arandis Town Council and the Erongo Regional Council.

Tendekule explained that the overall system covering the entire road from Usakos to Swakopmund was estimated at N$185,2 million, and the NRSC opted to implement this in phases. What was launched last week is the interim phase which cost about N$27,65 million. The intention is to develop the project in a phased approach to enable the budget to cope with the demand. The first phase will be completed when the Intelligent Transport Systems infrastructure is fully deployed along the entire way between Usakos and Swakopmund. The centre will then transition into a national pilot project and will collect and collate various data sets that will inform the decision for replication in other relevant parts of the country, especially on the B1 highways where most fatal accidents continue to claim lives. Namibia’s Road Traffic Management Services (RTMS) was appointed to implement the system in collaboration with their technology partner, Efkon-South Africa. The ITS infrastructure is sourced from South Africa and internationally.

Tendekule said that there is also a skills-transfer plan to allow Namibians to take control of the whole system's operations and maintenance and that the first group of five employees consists of young Namibians who have been recruited to operate and maintain the system under the mentorship of the Efkon South Africa. These Namibians serve in the categories of operator, trainee operator, and assistant maintenance technician. “Namibians are being groomed to assume the operation and maintenance responsibilities of the system. Moreover, there is a co-location agreement in place between AERTMC, the Namibian Police Erongo Region Traffic Unit, and the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund to ensure that traffic management and emergency response capacity through ITS is integrated, enhanced, and wholly Namibianized,” Tendekule explained.

Erongo council chief regional officer Habatte Doëses told Erongo that while the council has not made any formal commitments to funding the project yet, it did fund a gala event towards fundraising for the feasibility study and other related costs of the project.

Arandis CEO, Stanley Norris said the town council provided four hectares of land to accommodate the centre. The town’s council is also expected to collect an emergency levy from its ratepayers towards the sustenance of the centre. “The AERTMC system falls in line with the vision of Arandis to position itself as the region’s emergency response hub considering the B2 also serves as a main component of the Trans-Kalahari Highway,” concluded Norris.