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Dream bridge to ease access to harbour

?Traffic jams will get worse as the volume of goods processed by the port increases, so a bridge is becoming a necessity,? says Siddick Chady, the chairman of the Mauritius Ports Authority (MPA). Since the return of the prime minister, Navin Ramgoolam, from his State visit in China, where he was impressed by the state-of-the-art technology developed by the Chinese authorities for road infrastructure, the Dream Bridge project, placed in a drawer for more than 10 years, is making a come-back.

This time could prove the right one. This structure, expected to facilitate the transport of goods to or from the port, would cost between Rs 2.5 and 3 billion. The MPA, which should be financially involved in the project, has requested financial aid from the Chinese. ?We hope construction will start at the end of the year,? says Siddick Chady. It is estimated that it would take around 18 months to materialise. It would be some 300 metres long and suspended at a height of 30 metres over the sea. This overhead bridge would connect Les Salines to Roche-Bois.

Reduce traffic on the motorway

The Dream Bridge project comes at the right time. If its purpose is to accommodate trucks carrying goods, it is also expected to reduce traffic on the motorway. A meeting was scheduled last week by the authorities on that matter. Insufficient road network, expanding number of vehicles? According to a survey ordered by the ministry of Public infrastructure to the National Transport Authority (NTA) there will be some 500,000 vehicles on the road by 2017. To give an idea of the loss of earnings involved, traffic congestion costs about Rs 1 billion each year.

Meanwhile, one can wonder how, though it is only one-third of the size of Mauritius and has a greater number of vehicles, Singapore has already managed successfully its traffic issues. According to an expert from NTA, other measures, which have also been proposed for years, are still in crying need to solve effectively the traffic congestion: a driving licence with a penalty point system, a toll tax or even a congestion tax, as in Stockholm.

Actions should be taken in Port-Louis first, but other measures have to be undertaken in the great conurbation from Curepipe to the main city. The old railway track, almost entirely preserved, seems ideal for Mass Transit either by long buses, light rail or monorail, the latter being seen as too expensive: on a 25-km corridor, from Curepipe to Immigration Square through Floréal, Vacoas, Ph?nix, Quatre-Bornes, Ollier, Rose-Hill, Beau-Bassin, Chebel, Richelieu, Saint-Louis and Victoria Station.

The actual bridge project has some advantages: there is no land acquisition required and the MPA will benefit from the participation of the MPI and the State Investment Corporation. Also decisive is the role of the Chinese. The latter would be ready to finance the project, the first of its kind in Mauritius, according to the Build, Operate and Transfer formula.

This formula would enable Chinese investors to run the management of the bridge and earn revenue from its use for an agreed time-span : either from toll or tax. The concession could last 75 years. The bridge would be a large-scale infrastructural realisation. But it is also hoped it will give a special cachet to the harbour with its distinctive architecture. Similar projects can stand as a national brand.