Economy

Nairobi Expressway firm faces toll fees resistance

expressway

The ongoing construction of the Nairobi Expressway along Mombasa road. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) says in a report to lawmakers this month the plan to charge motorists toll fees is yet to get full backing from the public.
  • The planned charges for use of the Sh59 billion road risks a public opposition — similar to the one which led to the cancellation of a proposal for toll fees for Nairobi Southern Bypass in 2016.

A parliamentary advisory on economic affairs has warned inadequate disclosures on tolling of the Nairobi Expressway could result in public resistance, potentially jolting government plan to have the Chinese contractor recover costs from charging motorists using the road.

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) says in a report to lawmakers this month the plan to charge motorists toll fees is yet to get full backing from the public.

The planned charges for use of the Sh59 billion road risks a public opposition — similar to the one which led to cancellation of a proposal for toll fees for Nairobi Southern Bypass in 2016 — if more clarity on pricing model is not offered before implementation, the unit claims.

“The Nairobi Expressway project has also not won full support of the public since the project is shrouded with lack of proper and comprehensive information disclosure and other ambiguities especially on assumptions behind the 30 years’ period given to the investor and the risk mitigation measures if the assumptions fail to hold,” analysts at BPO, which advises legislators on economic and financial affairs, wrote in a report.

China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is building the 27.1km double-decker highway with privately-sourced funds to be recovered through toll charges by its subsidiary, Moja Expressway, which will operate the road for nearly 30 years.

Motorists will have the option of using the Expressway to escape heavy traffic for a fee depending on the size of the vehicle and distance covered.

The road’s contractor early September started recruiting for 36 toll attendants and two account clerks ahead of scheduled completion next March.

“To the public, there is a concern that tolls will be a double tax on many motorists who currently are paying for road maintenance through the fuel levy,” the Budget Office wrote in the Budget Watch report for 2021/22 and Medium Term.

“An extensive sensitisation and public participation exercise should be undertaken to consider the views of the myriad of stakeholders on the value for money of the project, the pricing model for the tolls and the toll collection systems, among other issues.”

Motorists pay a levy of Sh18 for a litre of diesel and petrol they buy cash which goes into maintenance and rehabilitation of roads through the Kenya Roads Board.

The fuel levy, which came to force through the Road Maintenance Levy Fund Act of 1993, replaced toll fees which had been introduced in the late 1980s.