The Kwame Nkrumah Interchange is an important transport hub that distributes thousands of vehicles to connect in different directions — inter-city and intra-city — with more than 20 lorry terminals and boasts of all-day-round activities.
Given its importance and the thousands of people who use it on a daily basis, the three-tier interchange was constructed to help ease congestion and enhance free movement of vehicles and commuters.
Known for its bustling city life, the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange has, however, been plagued with illegal activities, resulting in unprecedented levels of congestion, compounded with criminal activities that undermine the good intentions for which the project was birthed.
Formerly, the area only had a roundabout to distribute the thousands of vehicles that use the corridor to connect in different directions, including to major towns and cities such as Kumasi, Takoradi, Cape Coast, Tema, Aflao, Korle Bu, Teshie/Nungua, Odorkor, Accra.
It has commercial bus and/or taxi stations for almost all major suburbs of Accra and also serves as the terminal for long distance travellers. The Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, therefore, has terminals for STC, VIP, VVIP, OA, PROTOA, GPRTU and all transport unions and networks, including those that travel to the West Coast, such as GUO and EFEX.
About three million people are estimated to visit the city each day, with most of them living on the outskirts, according to official figures.
Their rush in and out of the city on a daily basis creates chaos, especially during rush hours at places such as the Interchange (Circle), which is a transport hub for commuters.
The congestion is mainly caused by the rising number of hawkers and street vendors who set up makeshift shops in the area in an attempt to make a living.
With no official regulation being enforced, the vendors have been blocking the walkways and parts of the streets, making it increasingly difficult for vehicles to pass.
In addition, the area has seen an influx of illegal parking activities by commercial and private vehicles, including ‘Okadas’ and trotros.
The Daily Graphic team which monitored the scenes at the area observed that the situation had created a chaotic atmosphere, with drivers weaving in and out of traffic, often ignoring road traffic regulations.
The team again observed that the situation worsens in particular parts of the area when there is no police presence.
At the locations where police officers are stationed, the observation is that they were often overwhelmed and sometimes watched in despair as the situation deteriorates.
The few police officers, who are usually seen under the overpass and on the two ends of the roads in front of the Orion Cinema, near P&T, were seen only trying to impress on the drivers to move their vehicles as soon as they stopped to pick passengers. The picking of passengers on the move is a major cause of the congestion.
Again, the stretch from the Neoplan terminal to the New Times Corporation office often has trotros taking up one of the three lanes of the road.
The situation worsens in the evening when drivers deliberately park their vehicles on the shoulders of the road after the day’s work.
It is also common to see persons who appear to be ‘drug addicts’ and mentally challenged making parts of the overpass their places of abode.
The congestion has caused much frustration among commuters and pedestrians alike, with many people voicing their complaints even on social media.
One resident of Achimota, Mathilda Hammond, who works in the area, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that the situation was mind-boggling, given that the redesigning of Circle into an interchange was expected to create some room for businesses to thrive in the area.
“I can’t believe how bad the traffic is in Circle. It’s like a nightmare. I hope the authorities do something about it soon,” she said.
Asked why people still sold on the streets instead of the Pedestrian Mall constructed about a decade ago to decongest the streets and bring some sanity to the area, Ms Hammond said people were always rushing from one place to the other and did not patronise the wares of the traders in the mall.
“It’s easier for people to buy from the streets than enter the mall because they are always rushing from one place to the other,” she indicated.
The trader added that some people had shops in the mall but still operated from the streets to make the numbers.
Crime in the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange area has been on the rise due to the increasing levels of congestion in the area.
Over the past few months, there have been numerous reports of muggings, pickpocketing and other criminal activities.
As the congestion in the area has resulted in a surge in the number of vehicles and pedestrians, it has made it easier for criminals to blend in and commit their crimes.
The criminals, the Daily Graphic gathered, are often taking advantage of the heavy traffic build-up to snatch mobile devices and side bags.
A trotro driver, Charles Bentum, told the Daily Graphic that the chaotic situation was mainly due to indiscipline on the part of both drivers and pedestrians who ignored road traffic regulations in the area.
He said successive governments had announced plan after plan to tackle the problem of illegal activities in the area and minimise indiscipline but the plans had not been implemented successfully.
“A new police task force was set up to regulate the traffic and enforce the law during the previous administration but that too didn’t work,” Mr Bentum said.
In an interview to find out what the city authorities were doing to curb the vehicular and trader congestion at the area due to sheer indiscipline, the Municipal Chief Executive of the Korle Klottey Municipal Assembly (KKMA), Samuel James Nii Adjei Tawiah, said the assembly was employing a raft of measures to decongest roads and spaces around the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange that has been plagued with illegal activities to bring sanity to the area and boost economic activities.
The measures, some of which are already being implementation, include getting rid of hawkers and beggars from the streets, relocating street vendors to newly built markets, strict enforcement of bye-laws on parking in collaboration with the private sector and a new plan to create car parking spaces such as on-street parking within the bustling city centre.
He told the Daily Graphic that ultimately the adopted measures would help reduce streetism, promote sanitation and organise the commercially vibrant area in a manner that would bring serenity and comfort to city dwellers.
The move will also help to contain the growing number of vehicles and persons that compete for space in the vibrant area.
Attitudinal change needed
Addressing the concerns of the public, the MCE noted that growing public indiscipline had enormously contributed to the present chaotic situation in the area.
“The main problem is attitudinal change because some of these measures have been deployed in the past, but people ignore them and still perpetrate their illegal activities, including selling on the pavements, which is very dangerous,” he said.
Already, Mr Tawiah said the assembly had completed a market around Odawna where small stalls and ‘lockable stores’ had been constructed in order for all street hawkers to be at a central location.
“That has also been difficult to achieve because we as a people like to buy in traffic instead of buying from the market so the traders have also refused to move but with enforcement, we hope to change the situation,” he said.