Search for toll operator on key Kenya roads begins

Treasury CS Henry Rotich (left) and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG
Treasury CS Henry Rotich (left) and his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

The search for a private company that will manage the Mombasa-Nairobi and the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit highways once they are converted into pay-to-use roads has begun, bringing close the reality of tolling on Kenya’s busiest transport corridor that also serves neighbouring countries.

The Treasury has advertised for a consultant who will conduct feasibility studies on the tolling project and thereafter help recruit an operator.

The consultant will offer the advisory services over a period of one year during which construction on the two key highways is expected to have started, according to the advert in the local dailies yesterday.

“The transaction adviser will assist the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit and contracting agencies with the competitive procurement of the project sponsor of a tolling operator for Kenya first’s mover toll roads program,” the advert says.

The Mombasa-Nairobi and the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit highways —whose construction is at the procurement stage — are some of the major roads that have been earmarked for tolling.

Three firms have been shortlisted for the planned construction of the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit section of the highway.

Negotiations with America’s export-import (Exim) bank to finance the Sh230 billion construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi have also begun.

Successful concessionaires in both projects will build, maintain, manage and operate the highway while recovering their money from motorists in the form of user fees.

Introduce more toll stations

Plans are also underway to introduce toll stations on Nairobi’s Thika Road, the Southern Bypass and the planned second Nyali Bridge in Mombasa.

The looming tolling has attracted sharp criticism from consumer rights groups who reckon that it amounts to double taxation since motorists already pay for the building and maintenance of roads through a levy that is included in petroleum pump prices. 

Further, there are no plans to provide toll-free alternatives for those who do not want to pay as is global practice.

The Roads Annuity Fund created two years ago to provide capital for the development and maintenance of new roads has accumulated Sh20 billion.

Data from Kenya Roads Board shows that the government collected Sh51 billion fuel levy in the year to June 2016 compared to Sh32.1 billion in the 2014/15 financial year.

The amount was Sh18.9 billion more last year following an increase in fuel levy by Sh3 per litre, indicating the heavy burden that taxpayers continue to shoulder to maintain roads.

The government, however, argues that the partnership with private companies, and the tolling programme, is the only feasible way to unlock the Sh380 billion needed to expand and maintain roads every year.