UK-funded ‘Transport Africa’ conference held in Accra


Transport Africa Research Project stakeholders have held a stakeholder conference in Accra at the Engineer’s Centre in Accra on May 14, 2019.

The UK funded “Transport Africa” research project is investigating the sustainability and resilience of transportation infrastructure (roads and railways) in Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa.

Explaining the rationale for the research to the media after the conference, Professor Samuel Ampadu, the project investigator from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, said, the project is investigating the use of local materials for road construction in low trafficked rural roads.

As a non-renewable natural resource, good quality materials that meet all the specifications are becoming increasingly difficult to find close to road construction projects. Field trials in other African countries have demonstrated that many local materials, such as the red lateritic gravels that occur naturally in the ground, can perform satisfactorily as construction materials. They can be used to construct all-weather roads when they are provided with a bituminous surfacing. This means that the existing specifications for road construction materials need to be updated.

Using local materials provides significant cost savings, as well as being more environmentally sustainable. But the local materials that do not meet the specifications are more sensitive to water movements into the road than those that are traditionally used. Therefore, the research has to identify what materials can be used in particular climate conditions. To gain this knowledge, the project team has installed instruments to measure moisture changes in roads in different climatic regions of Ghana and Tanzania and in a railway embankment in South Africa. The sensors will be able to detect the amount of water penetrating into the road or railbed and the changes in the properties of materials as they become wetter and drier. In Ghana, the sensors have been installed in roads at Attakwei on the Asankraguah-Ashiem-Sefwi Bekwai Road in the Western Region and in the Kaleo-Sankana road in the Upper West Region.

Climate change is a reality that affects us in so many ways. Definitely, it affects the transport infrastructure that we provide. Using the information collected from the field, the team also aims to predict how roads and railways will behave in the future when subjected to Climate Change. By creating a computer model that can explain the current measurements, it will be possible to run the model with future climate scenarios. This is vital, as roads and railways being built now will still be in use in 50 to 100 years time, when the climate may be very different.

The Transport Africa project is funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund. This is a £1.5 billion (GH¢ 10 billion) fund from the UK Government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Transport Africa has received the support of £1.1 million (GH¢ 7 million). The project is led by Durham University, the third oldest university in England, which is ranked 6th in the UK. The work in Ghana is being done by Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, with the other partners being the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Nyaoro & Associates in Tanzania.

“This project should also be a catalyst for local research. It is our hope that the Ministry of Roads and Highways will commit funds for local research. Given the large investments that the nation makes in transport infrastructure development and maintenance, it is important that infrastructure performs as intended and also any small savings in cost on every project will cumulatively become a large saving”, Prof. Ampadu concluded

Professor David Toll, the project leader from the Department of Engineering at Durham University, said “We are very pleased to have the opportunity to present our research findings to key stakeholders in Ghanaian government departments and companies in Accra. It is essential that our research has practical value to Ghanaian civil engineers. We want to see the findings being used to allow more economic all-weather road construction that will be of enormous benefit to people living in rural areas.”

The Chief Director of the Ministry of Roads and Highways attended the Conference and gave the opening remarks to welcome the conference participants. The stakeholder from Ghana who attended included other officials from all the agencies under the Ministry of Roads & Highways, Road Contractors, Civil Engineers, National Road Safety Commission, Fire Service, Police, Academia and the general public.