Land Transport in Mauritius

 

History, Environmental Impacts and Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An old and derelict passenger railway car -Mahebourgh Historical Museum

 

A brief history of land transport in Mauritius

Pre modern forms of transportation were quite obviously restricted to sailing ships, horseback riding, horse drawn carriages and foot. Modern, mechanized forms of transportation began with the introduction of steam trains in 1864 and internal combustion engines in the early 20th century.

In 1964 the railway was closed down for economic reasons, and that left road transport as the only mode of internal transport in the country. Economic development of the last decades has resulted in the growth of that sector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bus in Port Louis

 

 

As economic growth proceeded apace from the late sixties onwards, GDP at basic prices in current Rupees shot from Rs 760 millions in 1964 to Rs 342 Billion in 2014 and the number of registered vehicles climbed from 64,582 in 1978 to 465,052 in 2014 (the proportion of two-wheelers increased from 33% to 40% in the same period).

In the meanwhile the length of roads increased from 1781 km in 1981 to 2080 km in 2010. Thus the number of vehicles increased from 39.2 per km to 184.6 per km over the same period. With an increase of 370% in vehicles per Km, it is hardly surprising that the country suffers from road congestion at peak hours along the Port Louis- Curepipe corridor. It is along this corridor of 40 km that most of the population lives and works.

Motorisation rates in Mauritius are higher than on the African continent but much below that of Western Europe or the United States. That nevertheless leaves one household in five with a car. The recent annual rate of growth has been 13%, and excluding two wheelers, the annual rate of growth is still about 8%. A very high figure indeed.

If such an annual rate of growth (8%) is maintained over the years, the doubling rate is close to 10 years, meaning that in 10 years time there will be twice the amount of motor vehicles as there is at present. The economic, social and environmental impacts of the doubling of the number of vehicles in such a short time will be considerable to say the least.

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Vehicular traffic in Port Louis

 

 

 

 

 

Road Freight Transport

The freight carried by road transport can be divided up into two types: sugar and general goods.

Sugar cane is first transported from the fields to the factories for processing and then the final product is transported to the Port Louis Bulk Terminal for shipping.

On average, 5 million tonnes of sugar canes are carried from the cane fields to the factories and then close to 600,000 tonnes of processed sugar is transported from the factories to Port Louis. Assuming 120 days for a normal harvest season, then around 40,000 tonnes of sugar canes and around 5,000 tonnes of processed sugar are transported daily.

The general goods category consists of merchandise, imported foodstuff, textiles, cement, and goods for export and so on. It has been estimated that the total daily tonnage available for haulage is about 13,000 tonnes (Ref 1).

In 1991, the lorry fleet totalled 7225 vehicles out of which 60% consists of light trucks with a tare weight of 3 tonnes or less. In 2014, there was 14,061 lorries and trucks.

Freight rates are not controlled and so there is strong competition amongst the different operators. Generally, the supply of freight services is enough to meet the demand.

Private passenger transport

Private transport consists of cars, dual purpose vehicles, motorcycles and auto cycles. The rapid economical development of the last decades has brought about a massive increase in the number of private vehicles from 60,535 in 1983 to 142,930 in 1993, an increase of 136%. The number of private vehicles per 1000 population has gone from 62 to 136 in the same period.

 

 

 

Public Passenger Transport

Public transport is made up of buses and taxis. Buses are the main form of public transport in Mauritius. In 2014 there were about 6911 taxis and 2963 buses operating throughout the island.

Road Network

The road network reaches about 2080 kilometres with a density of 0.97 kilometres per square kilometre with 90% of the roads paved. Though, over the last decade the density has only increased marginally from 0.95 to 0.97, the existing network has been vastly improved. But the density of vehicles per kilometre has increased from 39 in 1980 to 92 in 1993, and 223 in 2014 resulting in traffic congestion at peak times.

 

 

 

Transport Energy Demand

Around 40% of energy demand is for transportation purposes. Diesel accounts for 55% of transportation fuel used, 45% being petrol. This ratio is typical of developing countries where price and fuel taxation are geared to promote the use of diesel.

It has been estimated by Baguant (1996) that in 1992 the annual bus diesel consumption amounted to 20 million litres and 92 million litres for goods transport. Whereas the annual total gasoline (petrol) consumption amounted to 94 million litres for the same year (2 wheelers and 4 wheelers included).

 

 

 

 

Discussion

The increase in gross domestic product and wealth of the country that is foreseeable in the coming decade will inevitably bring about an increase in freight transport and passenger transport. It is crucial that the use of public transport is encouraged if Mauritius is not to face virtually intractable land transport problems. Already journey times from Port Louis to Curepipe have increased by 40% over a ten year period. Though a shift to public transport is highly desirable and necessary, it is far from being sufficient.

The heavy traffic that flows along the Port Louis to Curepipe corridor is, to a great extent, due to the concentration of government departments and business offices in Port Louis. It is high time that government takes the initiative by delocalising some of its departments and ministries. Few government departments really need to be in the city centre. Similarly, government should encourage businesses to move out of Port Louis, it is an aberration that some private firms still have their stores and warehouses in the city centre.

To ease traffic loading, heavy vehicles should be banned from going in and out of Port Louis at peak times for they slow down the traffic flow significantly.

But it is the decentralisation of businesses and government offices that will have the greatest impact on traffic loading in Mauritius.

Smart cities December 2014

Following the December 2014 general elections, a new Government came into power and in the subsequent budget speech; Government announced the creation of 5 to 6 so-called smart cities. Inevitably and irrespective of what these smart cities will turn out to be, once a reality these projects will have an impact on land transport dynamics in Mauritius. Whether these impacts will be positive or negative remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year

Population (mid-year)

 

Gross Domestic Product (at market prices) Rs Million

Length of Roads (km)

 

Vehicles on register

Two wheelers

1978

933,499

6,258

 

64,581

21,856

1979

949,888

7,640

 

68,990

25,030

1980

966,039

8,697

 

69,829

25,976

1981

980,462

10,209

1,781

69,847

25,740

1982

992,521

11,725

1,781

71,750

26,749

1983

1,001,691

12,763

1,781

 

 

1984

1,012,221

14,360

1,781

74,369

28,105

1985

1,020,528

16,618

1,783

75,595

28,528

1986

1,028,360

19,700

1,783

78,229

29,564

1987

1,036,082

24,222

1,783

85,677

33,560

1988

1,043,239

28,683

1,801

95,840

39,093

1989

1,051,260

32,274

1,801

107,513

46,404

1990

1,058,775

39,275

1,801

123,545

57,094

1991

1,070,128

44,316

1,831

140,254

68,574

1992

1,084,401

49,739

1,831

155,320

77,739

1993

1,097,305

56,689

1,881

168,158

85,540

1994

1,112,607

63,519

1,897

180,884

92,970

1995

1,122,118

69,988

1,899

190,867

97,809

1996

1,133,996

79,365

1,905

200,320

101,754

1997

1,148,284

88,175

1,905

210,922

105,406

1998

1,160,421

100,042

1,910

222,344

109,143

1999

1,175,267

109,400

1,910

233,415

112,946

2000

1,186,873

122,410

1,926

244,018

116,478

2001

1,199,881

134,392

2,000

255,149

119,953

2002

1,210,196

145,055

2,000

265,841

122,801

2003

1,222,196

162,291

2,015

276,371

125,602

2004

1,233,386

180,908

2,020

291,605

129,500

2005

1,228,543

191,393

2,020

305,496

133,430

2006

1,234,285

213,444

2,021

319,440

138,174

2007

1,239,919

243,998

2,028

334,145

142,606

2008

1,244,410

274,316

2,028

351,406

147,988

2009

1,247,718

282,354

 

366,520

 

2010

1,250,689

299,170

 

384,115

 

2011

1,252,678

323,011

 

400,919

 

2012

1,256,156

343,835

 

421,926

 

2013

1,258,927

366,208

 

443,495

 

2014

1,261,208

386,336

 

465,052

 

 

Source: Central Statistics Office diverse publications

 

 

 

 

Year

Percentage of two-wheelers

Number of vehicles per Km of roads

Motorisation Rates Vehicles per 1000 population

1978

33.8%

 

 

1981

36.8%

39.2

71.2

1990

46.2%

68.6

116.7

2000

47.7%

126.7

205.6

2008

42.1%

173.2

277.0

 

Bus Operational Statistics

 

Year

Bus Fleet

Total Vehicles-Kilometres

1978

1328

56,444,000

1979

1440

45,752,000

1980

1436

55,325,000

1981

1475

58,305,000

1982

1469

60,642,000

1983

 

 

1984

 

 

1985

 

 

1986

 

 

1987

 

 

1988

 

 

1989

 

 

1990

1518

69,369,000

1991

1533

70,324,000

1992

1585

70,842,000

1993

1644

73,140,000

1994

1684

78,594,000

1995

1767

80,570,000

1996

 

 

1997

 

 

1998

1768

80,973,000

1999

1734

83,275,000

2000

1740

85,392,000

2001

1777

86,912,000

2002

1808

91,009,000

2003

1831

86,417,000

2004

1854

87,665,000

2005

1,881

89,552,000

2006

1,887

94,034,000

2007

1,878

95,117,000

2008

1,898

99,203,000

 

Source: Central Statistics Office diverse publications





Bibliography

Baguant, J and Teferra, M : Transport Energy in Africa, Zed Books Ltd, 1996

Government of Mauritius: State of the Environment Report, 1991

Central Statistics Office diverse publications

 

Date on the web: January 22, 1998

Last update: 14th of July 2015