In Ghana’s capital city Accra, Scania is rolling out the most comprehensive and complete Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in the company’s history. With 245 connected buses operating in their own dedicated lanes, the system is improving quality of life in one of Africa’s large cities.
With a population of four million people, Accra struggles with the same problems as many other major cities in the world’s developing nations. It is experiencing a major influx of people from rural areas, has rapidly increasingly traffic levels, and relies on an economy that can’t cover the required expansion of the city’s transport system and infrastructure. Some 70 percent of Accra’s road network is overloaded with the number of cars on the road estimated to have grown by a factor of five in the past 15 to 20 years.
The President’s initiative
Ghana’s government formed the opinion back in 2007 that the only long-term, economically sustainable solution for Accra’s public transport was some kind of BRT system.
When the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, visited Scania in 2013, he had the chance to test drive a city bus and learn more about Scania’s work with BRT systems. The President invited Scania in to discuss a complete solution for Accra’s chaotic public transport situation.
Two years later, Scania is rolling out its most comprehensive bus system ever. In addition to 245 buses, the BRT system solution in Accra involves long-term financing, an electronic cash-free ticketing system, a big, modern workshop for service and maintenance of all the vehicles, training for 600 bus drivers, and advice and support on starting up and operating the BRT system. The buses are also adapted for those with disabilities.
“Scania has adopted a genuine customer perspective here,” says Fredrik Morsing, Managing Director for Scania West Africa. “We’re no longer just a bus manufacturer that provides vehicles and service. We have turned our perspective around and looked at what the customer really needs.”
A complete solution
Morsing says in this case there are actually a number of customers, as there are many stakeholders involved in the project. “What they need and get from Scania is a complete solution, including buses, a secure ticketing system, a system for providing important information to customers, and a fleet management system for the profitable planning and operation of the buses,” he says. “We service all the buses and train the 600 drivers. They have previously been driving minibuses and seldom have the experience and driving habits demanded by a BRT system. We also provide consultancy services to identify good solutions within the project.”
According to Morsing and everyone else involved, the most important thing in the whole project is the long-term finance. The whole substantial package is being financed through a 10-year loan.
“This allows the government of Ghana and the other stakeholders to get the bus system almost for free,” says Morsing. “Income from operations will cover the total costs. The system can be put into use immediately without needing to spend any money. It’s a very exciting concept for a city that otherwise lacks the resources to implement all its priorities and projects at the same time.”
The BRT system in Accra has aroused major interest among several other African countries and major cities with similar levels of infrastructure and rapid growth and with insufficient funds for major investments. Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon are among the countries to have asked Scania for advice on similar systems.
The 245 connected buses in the system will travel in two corridors that tie together central Accra and the densely populated areas to the north. An additional 50 Scania coaches are being connected to the system to allow for onwards travel to Kumansi, Ghana’s second biggest city, as well as to the neighbouring country of Côte d’Ivoire.
All buses connected
All of the buses in the system are digitally connected. They are linked to Scania for the planning of service and maintenance, to the operators for the management of ticketing, and to the Greater Accra Public Transport Executive, which manages public transport in the region. Each bus is equipped with both inward- and outwards-facing cameras.
Christian Persson is Global Sales Manager for Scania Bus Systems and now also Project Manager for the implementation of the BRT system in Accra. “This is the first time we have undertaken such a complete system,” he says. “I think selling a complete transport solution packaged together with a financial solution is the right way to go in this part of the world. I see major potential in other African countries. Scania West Africa has been a pioneer with this project. This is Scania’s future!”