One hundred and ninety-seven out of the 245 Aayalolo buses imported into the country for the Quality Bus System (QBS) have remained idle since 2016.
This means only 48 of the buses are being used for the service, which was initially known as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
The 197 buses have remained idle because the corridors which are supposed to be developed for the QBS are yet to be implemented.
The Daily Graphic found out on a visit to the Achimota Bus Terminal that the buses were at the mercy of the weather, apart from the inability of the operators, including the state, to generate any returns on the investment.
In a recent statement in Parliament, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hajia Alima Mahama, said GH¢1.7 million had been made available to facilitate the implementation of other corridors in the capital to pave the way for the rest of the buses to be put to good use.
The amount, she explained, would cater for the provision of signage and other fittings.
But the Public Affairs Manager of the Greater Accra Passenger Transport Executive (GAPTE), operators of the buses, Mr Fred Chidi, told the Daily Graphic that the amount was yet to hit the account of GAPTE.
So far, 48 buses have been deployed on the Amasaman-Ofankor-Achimota-Accra Central Business District (CBD) corridor, while the remaining are scheduled to be used on the Adentan-Accra CBD, Tema Beach Road-CBD and Kasoa/Mallam-CBD corridors which are yet to take full effect because the routes are not yet ready.
Although the patronage of Aayalolo buses has increased after the buses started operations barely six months ago, the operators are not breaking even.
Instead of the expected 12,000 passengers boarding the buses daily to make it more profitable, only 9,000 currently patronise the 48 buses daily.
Mr Chidi said ideally, on the average, each bus should be able to pick 24 passengers from departure to the destination, but only 18 do so on average.
“With the current 18 passengers per trip, we cannot break even. But can you imagine if we are able to make 24 passengers per trip on each bus daily?” he asked, adding that the operators had projected that by December this year, that target would be achieved.
Education and sensitisation
Mr Chidi attributed the high patronage to a lot of education and sensitisation the company had been embarking on over the period.
The QBS, which operates with the Aayalolo buses, was introduced to replace the BRT after efforts to implement the latter failed last year
The QBS was introduced to help deal with the challenges associated with transportation on the major corridors of the cities, especially Accra.
“The reason we had low patronage at the time we started in December was the fact that Ghanaians were not used to a system where passengers would have to buy a card and go through validation and other processes. They found that cumbersome.
“So we decided to embark on a lot of education through publicity on every means available to increase the level of patronage,” he told the Daily Graphic.
Even though he admitted that after the peak hours only a handful of passengers boarded the buses on each ride, he emphasised that new strategies were being developed to increase the number to about 24 per ride.
Mr Chidi stated that one of the major challenges bedevilling the system was the encroachment of some of its terminals by trotro drivers and appealed to them to put an end to the practice.
He said those who refused to obey the directive would have their vehicles clamped, adding, however, that “GAPTE will continue to sensitise trotro drivers to put an end to the practice”.
He used the opportunity to appeal to the public to continue to patronise the service to reduce congestion in Accra.
‘Move to BRT quickly’
Sharing his perspectives on the BRT system, the President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Mr Ebo Hammond, said the implementation of the BRT system was long overdue.
He, therefore, called on GAPTE and other stakeholders to make frantic efforts to quickly implement the system before rolling out onto the other corridors.
He also said there was the need for GAPTE to consider the sale of tickets online, in addition to the card system, “and not be stuck to only the card system in order to increase the level of patronage”.
He further pointed out that education and sensitisation the service ought to be intensified.
City transportation system
At the inauguration of the Aayalolo bus system in December last year, then President John Dramani Mahama said the transport system in Accra was characterised by heavy congestion, particularly during the peak periods, heavy dependence on informal bus services and inadequate facilities for pedestrians.
He said the government had planned to improve and modernise the road transport delivery system, especially urban transport, through appropriate policies and regulatory measures which would encourage investments in mass transit system to become attractive to all classes of people.
He indicated that the Aayalolo bus system would help in diverse ways, including the reduction in travel time along the busy corridors which would be a major advantage to workers, emphasising that the buses would operate on a time schedule, which would enable travelling to be planned.
“The Aayalolo bus service is the beginning of a greater effort to ease the intense traffic congestion in the big cities of Ghana, beginning with the Amasaman-Accra CBD corridor,” he said.
The BRT is under the Urban Transport Project (UTP) of the Ministry of Roads and Highways. It is jointly funded by the World Bank, Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), the government of Ghana and the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund at a cost of $95 million.
It is being implemented by the ministries of Local Government and Rural Development and Roads and Highways and the Department of Urban Roads (DUR).
Processes towards the implementation of the BRT were started in 2007. However, between 2008 and 2009, it faced many difficulties, including stiff resistance from private transport operators.
Earlier, the DUR had planned implementing an advanced type of BRT on the Accra-Mallam-Kasoa corridor.
That move resulted in the construction of a flyover across the railway line on the Graphic Road in Accra.