The Minister of Roads and Transport, Tshenolo Mabeo on Friday commissioned construction of the Francistown Interchange Junction also popularly known as the “Spaghetti Road.” The interchange junction, which is the first of its kind in the country, is a component of the 30km Tonota ÔÇôFrancistown road which is currently under construction. The whole project has cost the government over P1 billion and the interchange is expected to be complete in 18 months. The tender was awarded to China Railways Seventh Group.
Speaking during the event, the Minister said construction of the Tonota-Francistown road, including the interchange junction is a reality that will see the country achieve the desired outcome as stipulated in the National Development Plan (NDP) 10 to have well developed road infrastructure.
“Transport facilitates growth and development in other sectors of the economy. Therefore government has made a commitment to invest billions of Pula in Road infrastructure to ensure that the nation has access to those much needed government services,” he said.
The design of the Tonota- Francistown road was completed in 2003 and process to commence construction of the road did not take off due to financial constraints until 2012. The then Ministry of Transport and Communications, through the roads department, requested Pula Consultants (Pty) Ltd, a citizen company to review the continued adequacy and functionality of the traffic signalized junction and the company recommended and designed the interchange junction which was approved early last year.
Mabeo said the decision to build the road infrastructure of such magnitude emanates from a need to address growth in the number of vehicles that transit Francistown periodically and on a day to day basis through the A1 and A3 road networks. He said the vehicle population in Botswana grew by 50 percent from just over 204 228 to nearly 319┬á459 during NDP 9.
“The growth was mainly from private vehicles, public service transportation and heavy commercial vehicles which put pressure on some of our roads. Such was the case for the A1 and A3 section of the road through Francistown. According to a traffic analysis done in recent years, the section of the existing road between BMC circle and Tonota will reach capacity by 2023; while the section between BMC circle and Thapama Hotel has already reached its capacity. This has resulted in congestion on our roads especially at peak hours,” the Minister said.
“Transportation has a direct link to economic development. With the interchange, there will be an ease in traffic flow. Less travel time means that goods conveyed to destination will arrive quicker,” he added.
He also said the establishment of the interchange junction will indirectly act as an attraction for potential investors who want to set businesses in Botswana. He also said that such infrastructure will be aesthetically appealing and will give a facelift to Francistown.
The Minister further said besides socio economic development, decent roads also contribute to government’s efforts to reduce fatalities that continue to claim lives and leave many people disabled. He said construction of this interchange will address key accident spots as in the case of the junction entering the bus rank from Thapama circle.
“We expect to see the improvement of activity within the North-South trade corridor and between Martins-Drift and Kazungula village. As you might be aware this is a corridor that is heavily used by commercial vehicles especially freight companies transporting goods and services from Southern Africa to the rest of Africa,” he said.
Mabeo also said the quality of Botswana’s transport system, being a major player within SADC, is important to its investor attractiveness and the country’s competitive advantage, which cannot be compromised. He also expressed pleasure over the performance of the Tonota-Francistown project saying that it is well on schedule.
“This is a result of a strong and bonded team from our engineers here in Francistown, the consultants and contractors hired to do the job. In order to ensure that there is no cost and time overruns, my Ministry also relocated high level project supervisors to keep a hawk’s eye on the project,” he said.
He also said construction of the Tonota- Franciston road has already created jobs for Batswana through direct employment. The company currently employs approximately 500 Batswana. He also said that it is pleasing to note that there are Batswana owned companies being sub contracted do part of the job.
“I am happy that the Ministry of Transport and Communications through Roads Department has been in constant consultation with relevant stakeholders including affected residents of Somerset East, the Bus and Taxi Drivers Association, Business Community, affected Commercial Property Owners, Banks, Local Authorities and leadership,” Mabeo said.
As construction of the junction begins, the Old Thapama circle will be destroyed and closed on the 8th of Apri1 2015 to give way for construction. Alternative roads have been established to assist movement of vehicles in and out of the city.