Go-Ahead ventures to Zambia

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The 2006 Dennis Dart Pointer single-decker city bus, recently donated by Go-Ahead to Transaid’s driver training partner, the Industrial Training Centre (ITC) in Lusaka, Zambia

A Go-Ahead engineer recently had the opportunity of a lifetime to spend two weeks at Zambia’s ITC driver training centre

Robert Watson is a Senior Vehicle Engineer for Go-Ahead London, based at the company’s Camberwell bus depot in South London. Working as part of a team responsible for maintaining more than 2,300 buses which serve the capital, he never dreamt he’d be asked to swap his London base for Lusaka!

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But that’s precisely what happened when he was chosen by senior colleagues to take on a two-week secondment during the Spring, supporting a professional driver training project in the Zambian capital. Needless to say, Robert jumped at the opportunity to share his mechanical expertise with a team nearly 5,000 miles away.

The opportunity came about thanks to Go-Ahead being a corporate member of Transaid, the official charity of the transport and logistics industry. Membership opens up a wealth of opportunities to firms like Go-Ahead, including the ability to nominate staff to go on secondment overseas.

Robert’s brief was to work with Transaid’s partners at the Industrial Training Centre (ITC) to deliver an intensive mechanical training course on the correct maintenance procedures and operation for a 2006 Dennis Dart Pointer single-decker city bus. The vehicle in question had recently been donated by Go-Ahead for use training new and existing PSV drivers – but before that could happen, the team on the ground at the ITC needed to know how to maintain it.

Broadening horizons

The ribbon cutting at the official bus handover event. Go-Ahead Group’s Managing Director of Bus Development, Martin Dean (left) with the ITC’s Chairman of the Board Professor Francis Yamba (right)

Stepping off the 14-hour flight from London, via Nairobi, Robert arrived in bustling Lusaka, one of the fastest developing cities in southern Africa.
Lusaka is the centre of both commerce and government in Zambia and connects to the country’s four main highways heading north, south, east and west. It is also a right-hand drive market, making it a popular country for spotting ex-UK commercial vehicles on the road.

One of the benefits of travelling to Lusaka is you suffer next to no jet lag, thanks to just a two-hour time difference – all of which was perfect for Robert, who had just five working days to guide a class of six through a combination of classroom-based theory and practical workshop exercises.

Rising bright and early each day, he was picked up at 0700hrs and arrived at the training centre for a prompt 0800hrs start. Describing the daily routine, he said: “First, we’d enter the classroom and cover the various topics for that day. Then we’d take a practical tour around the vehicle, focusing on the aspects covered in the classroom and discussing how we would access them.”

Unlike a typical shift in Camberwell, Robert’s time was focused on ensuring the ITC mechanics had a better understanding of the maintenance, repairs and safety aspects specific to this model of vehicle.

Lasting impressions
Looking back on his experience, he continued: “In my opinion, the most valuable things I passed on were all focused around increasing safety.
“These guys were not short of mechanical knowledge in any shape or form, but a lot of the safety standards we uphold every day in the UK are more relaxed in Zambia. My time with them was focused on demonstrating best practice and reinforcing why we’re so pleased to support this important project.”

Since returning to the UK, Robert and the team in Camberwell have continued their support by gathering surplus tools which they plan to donate to the ITC early next year – demonstrating the wider support for Transaid from across the company.

Strong partnerships
Transaid’s close ties with the ITC have been playing a key role in the push to improve road safety standards for more than a decade, with the ITC being the only government-backed commercial driver training centre in Zambia. During this partnership, Transaid has helped to increase both the quality of the ITC’s training offer and helped to extend its services to thousands more drivers.

Lloyd Mbasela, Executive Director at the ITC, said: “Together with Transaid, we have worked to increase training capacity and improve driver standards across Southern Africa. It is our vision that together we will provide programmes to equip and expose both trainers and managers of driver training to global trends in driver training.

“The future of the partnership between ITC and Transaid is very bright and will contribute to further reducing road crashes not only in Zambia but the region as a whole by providing well trained drivers on the roads.”

A London bus in Lusaka
Robert’s trip to Zambia hasn’t been the only visit from the Go-Ahead team this year. In September, Martin Dean, Managing Director for Bus Development, joined a group of Transaid corporate partners and ambassadors visiting Zambia to see for themselves the tremendous value of Transaid’s work across sub-Saharan Africa.

The corporate partners had the opportunity to speak to the ITC team about the many road safety challenges they face and how the ITC, with Transaid’s support, is committed to providing high-quality driver training. This included an opportunity to see the driver training facility in full operation, including the fleet of HGV, PSV and forklift training vehicles donated – providing an opportunity for Martin Dean to officially hand over the Dennis Dart city bus.

Prior to being shipped, Go-Ahead arranged for it to undergo a full maintenance and safety inspection, with Robert personally carrying out all the required work.

He explained: “We even gave it a full respray to make sure it looked like new. It passed its final MOT with flying colours, before we delivered it straight to the docks for the seven-week voyage to Walvis Bay, Namibia – one of the main seaports for goods en route to land-locked Zambia.

“In many ways it was strange to see the vehicle I’d been working on now operating in such a different environment; but the team at the ITC were so grateful to receive it, and we know it will have a long and very busy life in service with them.”

Reflecting on his visit in the six months since returning home, he added: “I’m very grateful for the amazing opportunity I had to work with the team at the ITC. They were a super bunch, and I left Lusaka in no doubt that thousands of drivers will benefit from this new addition to their training fleet.
“And if they run into any maintenance issues, they know who to call. I’d love the opportunity to go back!”

Fantastic transport support
Go-Ahead has been a corporate member of Transaid for seven years, helping to have a hugely positive impact on its projects.

Like other members, which include the Confederation of Passenger Transport, MAN Truck & Bus, Michelin, National Express, Stagecoach and Volvo Trucks, its support takes a number of forms, including contributions of time, expertise and resources. Describing the company’s reasons for backing Transaid, Martin said: “With the bus we’ve been able to supply, the ITC will be able to deliver courses to even more students, bringing them closer than ever to their goal of eradicating needless road crashes and fatalities. Seeing one of our former vehicles being used for such important work reinforced why we’re so passionate about Transaid’s life-saving work.”

For an exploratory conversation about how you could support Transaid, please call 0207 387 8136 or visit www.transaid.org. Transaid is currently recruiting riders for its epic Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle challenge (2-13 June 2020) – information packs are available on its website.

Driver training powered by passion
International development organisation Transaid has just celebrated its 21st anniversary – a major milestone for an organisation that was founded by Save the Children, The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, and its Patron, HRH The Princess Royal.

With a commitment to transforming lives through safe, available, and sustainable transport in sub-Saharan Africa, Transaid initially focused on health service delivery, before launching its first dedicated road safety programme in 2008 to provide professional driver training where resources weren’t readily available.

Fast forward a decade, and Transaid has supported the teaching of more than 30,000 professional drivers across sub-Saharan Africa with projects in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.