Traffic control systems in Angola: Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes

Strong ambitions: By leveraging its favorable location at the intersection of two trans-African transport corridors, Angola plans to become an important logistics hub. For this purpose, a road network of close to 14.000 km is under construction. The key to the future are innovative traffic control systems.

 

by Peter Rosenberger 

The story is somewhat reminiscent of the myth of the phoenix rising from its ashes. In the civil war, which lasted almost three decades from 1975 to 2002, a large part of Angola's road network was destroyed. Ten years later, the Ministry of Transportation was able to report that 3,325 km of road had already been paved or repaved and a further 10,400 km were under construction. In fact, despite the relative weakness of the country’s infrastructure, Angola is one of very few African countries that do not currently face a significant infrastructure funding gap. Thanks to its large oil reserves, the republic on the south-west coast of Africa has the financial resources to address structural issues and rebuild its shattered infrastructure, expand the economy, modernize its cities and improve interurban connections.

By global standards, Angola is still lagging behind

The country’s potential is sustained by the corresponding political will: Angola’s president José Eduardo dos Santos emphasizes that rehabilitating and expanding the nation’s ports, highways and railways will be essential to transforming the country into a “logistical hub of considerable importance in Southern Africa”. The geographical situation is favorable: Angola is part of two major trans-African transport corridors, with the first running from north to south, linking Tripoli in Libya with Cape Town in South Africa, and the second running from east to west, linking Beira in Mozambique with Lobito in Angola.

 

At present, most of the freight in Angola is transported by road on trucks. Firstly because there are no inland waterways, and secondly because the few existing railway lines have just started operation and are not yet interconnected. For people transport, trains are not really an option since service is rather irregular. In the urban context, people are mostly using the private car to get around. Those who cannot afford a car, make us of the so-called Candongas, nine-seater vans operating in a system that resembles a public transport scheme. Yet, all in all, the country is still lagging behind in terms of multimodal transport by global standards. This is going to change, however. The necessary investments in all modes have already been planned, but their start had to be delayed due to the decline in crude oil prices.

In urban areas, traffic pressure keeps rising rapidly

In any case, the government sees intelligent transport systems as the key to the future: While, with 38 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, car ownership levels are still comparatively low, the rapid growth in passenger car numbers by about 10% every year puts huge pressures on the existing urban traffic infrastructure. The urban road network, which has already been improved in many areas, has only very limited expansion options since the cities have generally reached a relevant size by now. 

 

This is why current plans are focusing on the implementation of a wide range of ITS-based solutions, for instance local signal actuation and dynamic signal plans, reversible-direction lanes, and also traffic information systems for route selection and deflection of traffic flows.  Siemens Mobility is cooperating with local universities to investigate the deployment of these and other solutions for traffic management. In the field of interurban transport, the focus is on tolling and enforcement systems because, mainly around major cities, ring roads have been or are being built.

New era starts with four Sitraffic sX controllers 

In Angola there is a huge backlog in terms of using innovative transport technologies. The only major project of this kind to date has been implemented in Angola’s capital Luanda, where 220 ST controllers from Siemens have been in use since soon after the turn of the century. After a somewhat half-hearted attempt at ITS implementation with the installation of low-tech controllers from China in Kilamba Kiaxi, the authorities now have definitely adopted the path towards Smart Mobility. About 680 km to the east-southeast of Luanda, in Malanje, capital of the province of the same name, a traffic management system including four solar-powered Sitraffic sX controllers was put into operation last year.

 

Ultimately, this future-oriented option has been chosen for three main reasons: Firstly, thanks to its independent power supply, the installed solution defies the uncertainties of the frequently overtaxed power grid. Secondly, its numerous advantages in terms of user-friendliness, flexibility, connectivity and efficiency provide exactly the kind of long-term serviceability and sustainability that the country needs to achieve its aspirations for the future. And thirdly, the choice has been informed by the unique traffic engineering consulting services offered in addition. The next milestones on Angola’s rapid journey from the past directly into the future are already in sight: Besides an expansion of the system deployed in Malanje, the agenda includes two new projects to be implemented in Benguela and Lobito.

This is one of the many respects in which our technology makes a difference and scores with very practical added value.
Sandra Pimentel, Siemens Portugal

Dedicated local competence team to be set up

The all-inclusive, no-worries service provided by Siemens Mobility is the result of perfectly coordinated team efforts. The Luanda-based staff as well as the local installation and maintenance partners are managed from the Siemens offices in Amadora, Portugal. The Portuguese engineering team also provides support during the tendering phase for all kinds of electrical, civil engineering and traffic technology issues. Once the contract has been awarded and the technical solution defined, the team creates a detailed description of the project including CAD drawings so that the partners’ supervisors can efficiently manage the work on site and the physical deployment of all components. When 80% to 90% of those works have been completed, a team specializing in the technologies deployed is sent to the site to support the commissioning process – and to provide training to the teams of the partners and/or the end customer. 

 

The training enables the local teams to run first-level maintenance and to assess any technical issue with the necessary level of accuracy to allow remote problem solving by the team in Amadora. This is also why, for most projects in Angola, it is standard practice to equip the controllers with remote maintenance connectivity. “This is one of the many respects in which our technology makes a difference and scores with very practical added value,” says Sandra Pimentel from Siemens Portugal, and goes on to offer a glimpse into the future: “As soon as our installed base in Angola has reached a certain extent, we will build our own local competence team. Given the current growth perspectives, this time will come rather sooner than later."

2018-02-20

Peter Rosenberger works as a journalist in Birkenau.

Picture credits: Fotolia, iStock pop_jop and Siemens AG

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