The Addis Metro (Light Rail Transit, LRT), the first of its kind in Sub Saharan Africa, has been hailed as an impressive success story. It is definitely transforming Addis Ababa’s urban landscape and the way people commute in this congested African capital. But the LRT’s tracks (excluding the elevated tracks) are raising alarms as they are dangerously accessible to pedestrians and other traffic. Observers fear, soon or later, horrible accidents are inevitable unless the city administration and the federal transportation authorities take proactive measures.
Critics are warning that the authorities must not wait for major LRT disaster to happen in order to change the ugly traffic situation currently.
In the picture above, what you see is a reckless bus driver who had almost crashed into a passing train. That is not an isolated incident. In fact, such traffic accidents are expected to increase, unfortunately, because of such reasons as lack of effective enforcement of traffic rules and public safety measures. There is a broken system that breeds and encourages notoriously bad drivers and it needs to be fixed.
It has also become quite normal seeing people crossing the electrified tracks randomly, disregarding traffic rules and their own personal safety. Unless LRT maintenance workers, people should never be allowed to set foot on the tracks. There needs to be a massive public awareness campaign on safety.
Building an impressive infrastructure is one thing, but placing safety regulations and enforcing them is equally important and a necessity in a country known for its horrible traffic accidents. But it doesn’t look like safety is a top priority for the authorities.
It is very puzzling why the LRT planners left out uncrossable walls between the flat train tracks and busy road traffic. Not sure also if there is constant communication with the public concerning the dangers of train accidents.
Hopefully the city administration, federal government, and the local media will create ongoing public awareness on LRT safety. Perhaps, the government will also consider assigning special police force to the LRT system whose sole purpose will be enforcing public safety (fighting train crimes such as theft, littering, sexual harassment of women, etc.), preventing individuals from having unauthorized access to the tracks and protecting the entire infrastructure from sabotage.