SUNBIZ

Overloading Concerns Revisited

Fiji Sun’s Josua Tuwere’s editorial “The weight of the road problem” (Fiji Sun, April 29) spoke volumes and to be honest I read it twice. In it, he enlightens the
02 May 2015 08:12
Overloading Concerns Revisited
Road capacity is still a factor and we have major road widening projects along some of the busiest trunk routes in Fiji including the Suva-Nausori Corridor and also in Nadi.

Fiji Sun’s Josua Tuwere’s editorial “The weight of the road problem” (Fiji Sun, April 29) spoke volumes and to be honest I read it twice.

In it, he enlightens the audience on my exasperation with overloading on the network.

I sat across from Edwin Nand of FBC and Josua as the guest speaker on FBC’s 4 the Record show that aired last Sunday night.

It is quite satisfying to reflect back on the interview pleased that they understood the message as we sat through 40 minutes of questions and answers.

If you have sat in the hot seat before you would probably know too well that you have to prepare yourself for the probing questions the interview panel would throw your way.

One thing for sure, my staff certainly got their kicks out of watching their boss front up on television to talk about various issues including overloading.

The culture of overloading is costing Fiji tens of millions of dollars a year in damage to roading assets.

Equally disturbing is the fact that these vehicles are far less safe when they are loaded beyond legal limits.

They take longer to bring to a stop, the brakes and suspension wear out sooner, and if they do have an accident the damage is much greater due to the extra weight.

This is an absolutely major problem for Fiji. One of the most critical issues facing Fiji is to get control of overloaded vehicles.

We have done some modelling, some calculations on some of the loads we have seen which tells us that if we had significant volumes of these overloaded vehicles on our network then roads that were designed to last 20 years or more would last only a couple of years.

Part of FRA’s role is to advise government on policy matters surrounding the solutions that would benefit all road users and the industry.

It would require what we call the three E’s, Engineering, Enforcement, Education to change the overloading culture.

It may also require some thinking outside the square on ways to better address industry concerns.

The present practices essentially subsidise those who are overloading by placing the cost of their actions on the taxpayer through increased road maintenance and we believe there must be a better way.

Congestion in key areas is a concern and a cause for frustration for motorists and those using public transport.

Some level of congestion is the symptom of a thriving economy. More vehicles on the road, lots of economic activity and associated vehicle movements.

There are many ways to manage congestion and building more roads is only one way – often not even the best way in some circumstances.

Changing travel behaviour can be more effective in some circumstances. For instance making public transport more attractive or having more flexible working hours.

But certainly road capacity is still a factor and we have major road widening projects along some of the busiest trunk routes in Fiji including the Suva-Nausori Corridor and also in Nadi.

Some of the projects will be winding down towards the end of this year while others still have some considerable time to run.

I read with interest various commentators claiming that these projects are ‘taking too long’.

My question is generally ‘too long compared to what?’ Certainly there are always potential delays to construction projects that make them take longer than we would like.

But these major construction projects underway currently are generally going according to programme accounting for delays outside the control of the contractors.

Where there are issues they are dealt with as promptly as possible.

That said, our contractors are aware they should do what they can to minimise disruption especially during peak hours.

The best thing we can do for road congestion on our project sites is to get on with the work and wrap up the project as quickly as we can.

The exponential growth in the number of vehicles on our roads is indicative of the fact that vehicle ownership has increased.

Fiji is a modern progressive society and there is that expectation to be able to get around whenever the need arises and we understand that.

There is a lot more to be done to improve the congestion problem on our roads and we will continue to work with our counterparts in LTA, Police and other agencies to develop the best combination of Engineering, Education and Enforcement to suit Fiji.

The best news yet. Our 2015 work programme is available on our website and you can log on to http://www.fijiroads.org/content/2015-programme to find out more on what’s keeping us busy this year.

– Neil Cook is the CEO of the Fiji Roads Authority. This is his regular column which will be published by the Fiji Sun on Saturdays.

 



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