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Curb highway mess

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Two highway traffic jams in which motorists and their passengers spent many hours last week are an indictment of the national roads agencies. Road transport between Mombasa and Nairobi was paralysed for eight hours, inconveniencing travellers and delaying delivery of goods. The cause of the mayhem was an accident involving two trucks. It was worse on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, where travellers spent 15 hours on the road. Traffic congestion is a huge burden on the economy as passengers and goods do not reach their destinations in time.

With three well-staffed and funded agencies, the traffic section of the National Police Service, the National Transport and Safety Authority, and the Kenya National Highways Authority, and the roads department of the various counties, it is unforgivable that traffic on highways can be brought to a standstill for so long. There is enough expertise and experience in these agencies to easily disentangle such gridlocks. Failure by motorists to obey basic traffic rules is also a key factor. This is why police must act firmly. The recent 17-kilometre Gilgil weighbridge snarl-up is the second major one this year. Almost every weekend, motorists complain about gridlock at this spot.

The government has pledged to address the perennial traffic jams at this weighbridge by expanding the highway. This is welcome.

But why are the existing murram or even old tarmac roads not routinely maintained for use as alternative passages should a highway get blocked for whatever reason? There can be no justification for this inept management of the highways. Urgently needed is a well-equipped emergency standby team that can quickly rush to the scene to clear congestion.