The West-African country of Sierra Leone boasts a population of 7.8 million people over an area of 71,740 square kilometres. The country has experienced considerable economic growth over the recent years, despite the lingering effects of the civil war which ended in 2002, and this economic growth, largely thanks to the improvement of the country’s social and political situation has led to an increase in the number of vehicles using the roads. Locally, the road network is the dominant internal mode of transport, allowing for not only the transportation of persons, but also goods, such as agricultural and fishing products which in turn help the development of the economy.
Sierra Leone’s public road network totals approximately 11,300km, with more than half (51%) being main gravel roads, of which 68% are considered to be in poor condition. The quality of the roads has widely been considered as below acceptable standards, mainly due to long-term neglect and lack of maintenance largely as a result of lack of funding. Given the importance of the road network in Sierra Leone and considering the growth that is expected and is already being felt in the country regarding the quantity of vehicles on the roads, this matter is only expected to get worse. An important part of the road network specific to Sierra Leone is the use of hand-operated cable ferry crossing points. The road on which the cable ferries are located are considered of great importance due to the fact that they serve as links for people and commodities between districts, and even internationally, with the inclusion of two international roads which link Sierra Leone to Guinea and Liberia.
However, the cable ferries pose one major problem: they do not run during the night-time, seeing as they are manned by operators of the local roads’ authority, and they are virtually unusable during the rainy season. The rainy season results in rivers becoming swollen and rough which in turn makes the unsafe. Currently, people resort to using long treacherous routes to get where they need to go, or alternatively venture to use local canoes to make the trip which has unfortunately led to injuries and fatalities in the past.
In view of the present situation, the European Union has decided to fund the feasibility study and preparation of conceptual designs of bridges at various ferry crossing points. The provision of bridges as a replacement for the ferry crossing hopes to facilitate trade due to the shortening of routes and the ability to provide continuous year-round direct access. AETS was awarded this contract in the scope of Lot 2 of the ongoing SIEA framework contract of the European Union. The team will consist of 7 members, of which 5 (>80% of the total input including as the Team Leader) will be contracted by AETS and 2 by AETS’ partner, CARDNO. The project is expected to have a duration of 8 months and includes an environmental and social impact assessment.