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MOWT ineptitude putting lives in danger

Friday, February 9, 2018

Some years ago, it used to be the tragic case that, on an almost daily basis, there would be horrific accidents on the Uriah Butler Highway caused by vehicles on one side of the highway careening across the grass verge that separated the north bound from the south bound lanes, and crashing headlong into (sometimes onto) vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.

Drivers actually became fearful of travelling along that highway so horrific was the carnage. This of course was compounded by the fact that the speed limit was rarely enforced.

Until its belated enforcement fairly recently using laser speed guns, there was no speed limit on our highways, just a (completely disregarded) sign saying “80 kmh”.

Recognition should be given to Jack Warner, as Minister of Works and Transport, who installed cable barriers along most of the length of the Uriah Butler Highway. The results were immediately felt. Accidents were down, and mercifully, deaths and serious injuries became less the norm and more of a rarity.

Then as a result of the rampant corruption, waste and mismanagement of the previous government, in came the PNM in 2015.

Now, as you drive along the Uriah Butler highway, for miles upon miles the cable barriers which have been damaged by collisions sit unfixed with their cables loose, forlornly slack and in some cases on the ground. Several (perhaps hundreds) of the poles to which the cables are supposed to be attached stand alone, themselves now likely to be the cause of injury rather than protection against harm.

Allegedly, the reason behind this neglect is because the contractor hired to repair the cable barriers after collisions, and who had the specialist equipment for that purpose, was fired by the the Government, and the job of maintenance and repair was given to the Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT).

It is clearly obvious that MOWT is not up to the task but that doesn’t excuse the downright dangerous decline of safety cable barriers caused by MOWT’s obvious ineptitude and inefficiency. This stasis in governance is fast becoming a hallmark of this PNM government, which seems devoid of ideas or purpose.

How can it be maintaining a safety system that protects thousands of commuters a day is not a priority, but building the $400 million Manzanilla Highway is?

Why the Curepe Overpass instead of getting the Couva Hospital up and running before its esoteric and expensive equipment turn to dust?

But while the north-south drivers fear for their lives, and everyone else faces injury or damage to their vehicles or those of others by potholes galore (just drive from the Cross Crossing Interchange to Lady Hailes Avenue or pass through La Brea), the MOWT Minister says that he is fixing potholes for Carnival so no one gets hurt jumping up. Where? Along the Savannah and Avenue?

And we are assured that Carnival will be safe, such is the focus and determination of the security services. Will the Government, in the face of the most murderous January, have the gall to claim “success” in the fight against violent crime because two days of Carnival are “safe’?

No. We want safety all year round, not just during the Carnival period (although it appears, ridiculously, that safety including from crime and potholes is being guaranteed on Carnival Monday and Tuesday only).

Ironically, this “Carnival guarantee” has been the public relations stunt of both the PNM and the PP in office.

So just like the Tarouba Stadium wasting in open sight under the PNM, the Couva Hospital too, wastes in open sight under the PNM. The Point Fortin Highway project under the PP morphs into the Manzanilla Highway under the PNM, both of which are the subject of protest and litigation. Déjà vu, isn’t it?

Is it unreasonable for us to ask the Government to make the same effort all year round? Absolutely not, but don’t hold your breath.

Mickela Panday


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