Lethem trail repairs set back by rains

-no immediate plans for upgrade, says Luncheon

Rain continues to hamper travel along the Lethem trail, where repair works are being undertaken at key sections to ensure safe travel.

Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region 9 Ronald Harsawack told Stabroek News on Monday that construction company BK International is currently mobilising equipment in the area to carry out long-term works to the trail, between the Kurupukari Crossing, on the Essequibo River, and Lethem.

He said the company will carry out extensive works to the trail. At the moment, he said, Omai Gold Mines is undertaking emergency works to the section between the Pirara and Lethem. This is to ensure that heavy traffic is able to enter Lethem from the coastland. The Omai team is currently approaching the Hunt Oil Stretch, which remains a problematic area for motorists.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon stated on Monday at his weekly briefing that there have been feasibility studies conducted on the roadway, but he said that there were no immediate plans for an upgrade. Luncheon was at the time responding to a question on whether a Brazilian company was expected to carry out works to the roadway this year.

A Lethem minibus operator said on Monday that the road was generally “okay” during sunshine, but would become slushy in most parts on rainy days. He noted that the Hunt Oil area has been posing difficulties for motorists as it is usually swamped following rainfall. He said too that fuel trucks had been held up at the location and fuel is being shuttled into the area via smaller vehicles.

The operator also reported that as the smaller bush trucks traverse the Hunt Oil area, the road has deteriorated in several parts. “After a time, I think this entire road will have to be closed completely, to completely upgrade it,” he said.

He added that despite weight restrictions, trucks have been carrying substantial loads of cargo into the area and he thought that the authorities need to implement measures to ensure that this does not occur, given recent experiences.

Another bus operator said his vehicles were leaving Lethem as early as 5 am, in order to traverse the difficult areas along the road. He said the time to complete a trip has been fluctuating, depending on the road’s condition.

He said too that the plight of minibus operators and businesses at Lethem which use the road needed to be highlighted, since they have to pay huge sums in order to maintain their vehicles. “Right now, is more than $40,000 I spending on each trip in repairs because of the road,” the man added.

Works to a bridge, which was damaged last month under the weight of a truck, had been undertaken by a Lethem contractor recently, this newspaper was told, and according to reports out of the region, officials of the Ministry of Public Works’ Works Services Group had been making assessments of the 37-odd bridges located along the roadway between the river crossing at Kurupukari and Lethem.

The road linking Georgetown and the border community of Lethem had been under scrutiny in recent months. Heavy rains several weeks ago in the Upper Essequibo basin coupled with heavy flooding in the nearby Roraima State in Brazil posed grave difficulties for motorists using the trail. Traffic was stalled along the road for several days as the road and bridges there were inundated.

Residents at Lethem, including the business community had been calling on the authorities to upgrade the road to an all-weather road. The Brazilian authorities had made a proposal to this effect but the administration has been silent as regards the proposal. The road remains a vital economic link between the coast and the border community, and ultimately Guyana and Brazil.

Recently one of the main operators along the trail, Intraserv bus service announced it was closing because of the condition of the thoroughfare.

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