Stakeholders give input to Sustainable Transport Master Plan in four northern Regions of Namibia

Regions: all
Modes: all
Topics: all
Kind of Event: technical and management committee meetings

 

While comprehensive transportation master planning is not new to urban Africa, rural transportation investment has to date been sparse and heavily auto-oriented.  The Transport4People project is breaking new ground by drawing up a Sustainable Transport Master Plan for Namibia’s northern regions: Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana, and Oshikoto. 

 

Technical expertise is only one piece of the puzzle, however; unless local stakeholders such as public authorities, local businesses, and citizens play a role in every step of the process, planners risk misreading local needs. After a one year inception phase with stakeholder meetings and public hearings in 2015, the Transport4People project began developing the master plan in March 2016 and arranged a series of four Technical Committee meetings, one in each region, over the course of July and August in order to give the regions a platform for discussion and true ownership of the plan.

 

Each technical committee meeting involved a wide variety of stakeholders, ranging from the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development to UNAM students, the Roads Authority, local town engineers, NAMPOL, taxi associations, and even local businesses. Meetings began with a presentation which detailed the content of the draft Master Plan and its focus on public transport, non-motorized transport, the challenges of remote rural transport, as well as the cross cutting issues of road safety and environment.

 

Armed with the necessary background information, participants dove into discussion. Lacking or simply unaffordable public transport systems came up time and time again. An element of the plan involves a scheduled bus service running the 35km from Ondangwa to Oshakati in the Oshana region; project leaders explained to skeptical citizens that tendering bus operations to a private company, long established practice internationally, would ensure cost-effective operations. In addition to scheduled services, Oshakati residents suggested an expanded, improved rural public transport network, which would simultaneously make locals more mobile and create employment. Finally, TransNamib, the state-owned railway, provides affordable passenger services between Tsumeb and Oshikango which are nevertheless little known by the public and require improvement.

 

Residents’ comments also made it clear that the current rural taxi system, which will serve as a vital extension of public transport, does not cover all rural areas; in the Oshikoto region, the government has to date not managed to effectively provide land for taxi loading bays.  Other regions proposed a call center-based taxi on demand service paid for through fares, which would greatly improve rider safety. Many taxis do not drive into areas that are only accessible by sand tracks; the introduction of motorcycle taxis is one of the solutions proposed.

 

Non-motorised transportation and road safety present further challenges; stakeholders called on the Roads Authority to adopt design standards which treat all road users, from drivers to pedestrians to bikes, equally.  Participants also noted ubiquitous speeding on highways, slow emergency response times, and a lack of hospitals.

 

Finally, despite the project’s focus on alternative modes, road infrastructure remains a frequent concern; one stakeholder questioned why the Omuthiya to Oshakati road, due to be upgraded to a dual carriageway starting in 2017, could not be financed through tolls.

 

This wealth of input was presented to a stakeholder meeting in Windhoek on the 29th of August and discussed at length with national level stakeholders in order to enable finalization of the draft of the Master Plan by the end of September 2016.

 

The steering committee meeting is scheduled for the 26th of October, where the draft Master Plan will be presented. The final version shall be presented to members of the media at the end of November 2016. It will guide the creation of a comprehensive transportation network, focusing on affordable, accessible public transport, pedestrian needs, and road safety in the northern regions.