Motorists will pay between Sh1,458 and Sh7,290 to use the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit road in toll charges that could make Kenya’s highways among the most expensive to ride on in the world.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has recommended that high-capacity vehicles like transit lorries pay Sh30 per kilometre to use the toll road, while low-capacity vehicles like saloon cars will pay Sh6 per kilometre on the 243km stretch.
That translates to one-way charges of more than Sh7,000 for the heavy vehicles, significantly raising the cost of doing business and putting inflationary pressure on the prices of goods and services.
In an interview, KeNHA director-general Peter Mundinia said motorists will pay the same charges to use the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Westlands expressway that starts at Mlolongo and terminates in Westlands, measuring 18.586 kilometres.
That will cost users between Sh111 and Sh557 between Mlolongo and Westlands.
“Many other roads will be put on tolling regime.
"The first in line and whose procurement has progressed well are Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau summit Expressway and Nairobi Expressway (JKIA to James Gichuru Road). Others will come after evaluating the success of the above two,” said Mr Mundinia.
The charges are, however, still subject to approval by the Transport Secretary.
Four tolling stations
KeNHA has identified four provisional tolling stations, one after the Rironi interchange, a second one on A8 South (along Naivasha-Mai Mahiu), the third at the Gilgil weighbridge and the last one at Salgaa.
The JKIA-Westlands expressway will have about 10 interchanges based on the project design, implying that it may have a similar number of toll stations.
Toll fees that will start upon completion of the two highways will add to the Sh18 per kilometre fuel levy currently charged for maintaining Kenya’s roads.
Construction of the two highways is to be funded through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The Rift Valley Connect (RVC) has already started construction of the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit highway that will cost Sh180 billion.
The JKIA-Westlands expressway will cost Sh50 billion, but construction is yet to start as the government seeks a funding partner under the PPP arrangement.
The two expressways will drastically reduce the time taken by motorists from JKIA to Westlands and transit lorries moving goods from the Port of Mombasa to neighbouring countries.
While the agency did not disclose the factors used to determine the toll fees, European countries charge toll fees based on vehicle tonnage and heights in motorways and tunnel roads and number of days spent on the roads.
Motorists pay the fees at toll-gates in cash, through credit cards or through an automated payment system to use the highways.
At Sh7,290 per kilometre for trucks, Kenya will have some of the most expensive roads in world alongside European countries that, however, enjoy cross-border highways.
The driving distance between Cape Town and Johannesburg is about 1,397 kilometres , meaning that motorists pay Sh0.95 (R0.13) per kilometre
According to Toll.eu-website that computes fees paid to use major European highways, motorists pay between Sh3,469 (£30) and Sh7,632 (£66) to travel on the Eurotunnel that connects France to the United Kingdom.
This translates to about Sh152 (£1.32) per kilometre on the 50.45km stretch.
Mr Mundinia added that the tolling highways will no longer receive allocations from the fuel maintenance levy kitty.
The funds received from the toll fees will be used to invest in the PPP pacts, maintenance of major arteries and expansion of the road network countrywide.
The government is planning to put more highways to be constructed through the PPP arrangement under similar plans depending on the success of the two.
A special Tolling Fund will be used to finance maintenance of the highways and repayment of other roads built by private contractors but fail to generate enough funds to re-pay investors due to low number of users.
Toll fees were first introduced in the late 1980s but were scrapped in the mid-90s in favour of the roads maintenance levy currently charged at Sh18 per litre for petrol and diesel.
The charge also called user fee has however faced many hurdles, including a demand that the government provides alternative freeways for those who are unable to pay, or those who do not want to use the new roads.
Mr Munindia said that who do not wish to use the toll highways can still rely on other roads connecting the towns to the capital but will have to cope with heavy snarl-ups.
The government had in the past said that funds raised through the fuel levy have not been enough to maintain the country’s roads, leading to the re-introduction of toll fees.