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Opinions of Monday, 31 October 2016

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Potholes, traffic jams and the trick in electricity

By George Sydney Abugri

Potholes and traffic jams are my favourite subjects: There are traffic jams and there are traffic jams. There are the maddening fender to bumper absurdities which can remain dead stagnant for an eternity. When they eventually move again like mortally wounded snails in single file, it is usually only to inch very painfully forward at a few millimeters per millennium, before coming to a stop all over again.

Then there are the potholes. There are potholes and there are potholes. There are the standard-sized potholes-ugly, erosion-aided, miniature excavations on the asphalt which cause motorists to dance their vehicles crazily and perilously across lanes and sorry for the unsolicited poetry, old chap.

There are the chasm-like craters which also go by the misnomer, “potholes.” You come across one before you are aware and oh mine, riddle of riddles, what do you do? Break suddenly in an attempt to avoid the gaping monstrosity and you will cause one long, potentially fatal road pile-up.

If Lady Luck happens to be in the cabin of the motor car with you, you get away with a disjointed hip bone, a bruise or a lump where the roof of your skull grazed the roof of your motor car and a broken crank shaft.

I concluded that if there were so many potholes, someone must be profiting from them: Government contract tender boards are supposed to ensure that contracts are awarded on merit and to the most competent bidders, supervisors of road construction projects to ensure that contractors do not use sub-standard materials or vary technical specifications in a bid to illegally maximize profits.

Ethical conduct on the part of supervising engineers, tender boards and contractors will mean good roads. Good roads mean no government contract for along time to come. No government contacts, means you-know-want I mean and I credit you with enough commonsense to be able to paint the rest of the picture.

Back to the subject of traffic jams. It has reached a point where we really need to do something. Those responsible for managing motor traffic can only decongest traffic if they can obtain timely and accurate data on the movement of vehicles around the city. Road users need the same information so that once they hit the road, they can plan and re-adjust their routes if need be.

You have probably heard about RTMS. It refers top Road Traffic Monitoring by Satellite. It is an innovative traffic management system that uses a fleet of ‘tracer’ vehicles to detect congestion along roads in a city.

The technology user’s computers in the tracer vehicles and a mobile communication system to collect traffic data via satellite to a central facility. They can then direct and re-direct traffic in a manner that decongests any jams.

A trial of this innovative method of decongesting roads was conducted in 2002 in some cities in the Netherlands plagued by worsening problem of traffic congestion and I gather it has proved highly successfully. Methinks we should talk to the Dutch about our own arising problem over a pint, don’t you think.

The last but not least of my favourite subjects is electricity supply. The lights are going off all over again, all over the place. The power companies and the authorities have told us to be very happy and not worry at all: The dreaded “dumsor” is not creeping back.

It is often impossible to get a scape goat to take the rap for poor services in electricity supply. All that is needed to keep consumers confused about the sources and causes of poor supply is for the companies which variously generate, transmit and supply electricity to point accusing forefingers at each other when power supply is cut for long periods. “It is him!” “Me? Absolutely no. It is HIM.”

The other day I got to office hoping to complete an urgent project only to discover that there was no electricity supply.

I sat waiting for power to be restored. Staring at the ceiling soon gets boring. I stared at the disabled PC sitting on the desk and could almost sense the hard drive staring back at me from behind the blank, carbon dark screen of the PC and could almost sense the hard drive staring back at me form behind waiting for power to be restored.

I paced up and down like a caged tiger, muttering uncomplimentary adjectives about the power people.

Tired of staring at the ceiling and the dark screen of my PC, I go to stand by the window and spot this van loaded with crates of poultry eggs making its way down a street.

The driver of the van slows down. I stake a wager with myself, that there is no way he is going to drive across the huge potholes without the crates of eggs crashing down and discharged a volume of yolk and white large enough to make an omelet the size of the Accra Sports Stadium, and believe it or not that is what happens.

Then power came on again, but as I eased myself into my desk chair it went off again! We can only hope that the dreaded cuts are not creeping back with a singular vengeance.