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The transport system in Fiji is not working and the road infrastructure that consists of 7000km of roads and 1200 bridges and jetties needs a thorough overhaul to make it more resilient and sustainable.

This was highlighted by the Fiji National University associate dean for the College of Engineering Science and Technology Salabogi Mavoa during the Parliament Speakers Debate in Suva this month.

"The current land transport system is not working because the demand is greatly exceeding the supply," Mr Mavoa said.

"More than 15000 new vehicles were registered in 2015 and in 2016 the total number of vehicles on our roads was 110,763 a growth of about 10 per cent from the previous year.

"We should expect the same or more in 2017 unless something is done about changing the rate of demand.

"The Sustainable Development Goal 9 focuses on building resilient infrastructure to promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

We need to improve the existing road infrastructure to ease the demand on our transport system."

He said the 7000kms of roads and the 1200 bridges and jetties was not enough because the traffic jams worsened every day.

"This is equivalent to the supply situation, it is not enough to have so many thousands of kilometre lengths of roads (quantity) but we must also have quality standards that ensure safety, resilient as well as sustainable quality.

"This is part of the objective of SDG 11 making our cities inclusive, safe resilient and sustainable," he said.

"You only have to wait for the next rain and downpour to see the potholes appearing all over the place and this is just creating more demand on our existing infrastructure and transport system.

"Safety and reliability are the key issues because the size of potholes that appear overnight after the rain is a real problem for all who use the roads and thus creating more demand on our present transport system." Fiji Bus Operators Association president Richard Lal said buses were seen as slow mainly due to the congestion experienced on the roads.

"We need to address this problem to reduce travel time. There is an opportunity to correct this through the creation of passing lanes. The dedication of lanes to buses will enable buses to travel faster and get people to their destinations a lot quicker," he said.

"We believe there has to be an assessment as to what is the optimum number of vehicles that can be sustained on our current road infrastructure or what the new infrastructure is required in order to ease the congestion we currently face.

"There is a need to improve the conditions of some of our rural roads where service can be improved. The current poor conditions make travelling difficult, slow and often translate to increased repairs and maintenance costs."

He said there was an opportunity to create transport hubs in rural areas to cater for people living in areas where there was no road access or where population density was such that regular services were not viable.

"This will assist with traffic congestion as these vehicles transporting people to the hubs will not travel on main trunk roads," he said.

Fiji Taxi Association general secretary Rishi Ram said there was high volume of cars being imported into the country with little road infrastructure to cater for the growing demand.

"We need to employ local workers who can help in fast tracking these road upgrades so that congestion doesn't become a usual problem in the Central Division. If we get more workers, time wouldn't be wasted and more roads works can be carried out," he said.

"I think road works needs to be completed in the urban areas first before it goes to the interior because there is a lot of travelling public here with vehicles compared to the interior. When it's completed in the urban area than the next focus should be to those living in the rural areas."

The Fiji Roads Authority is utilising $23 million from its $527m budget allocation to conduct repair works on the bridges and crossings damaged by cyclones.

In earlier reports Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Parveen Kumar, told Parliament in May adverse weather had affected FRA's attempts at permanent repairs.

"There are currently 13 bridges and crossings requiring repairs as a result of cyclones previously and TC Winston.

Mr Kumar told Parliament that one must understand that all these bridges were old.

"Madam Speaker, as at April 2017, FRA has completed repairs and replacements on 10 out of the 13 bridges and crossings.

"Currently, a large number of structures have been identified as critical or high priority for repair or replacement. The plan has been established to manage these critical infrastructures."

Source: The Fiji Times Online

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