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Car owners to pay for using highways

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Motorists on major highways will start paying fees in the next three years as the government finally makes good its intention to generate revenue from infrastructure. The aim is to collect funds that will be used to maintain the country’s major arteries.

The plan will initially affect the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, the Nairobi Southern By-pass, Thika Highway and the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway. Kenya National Highway Authority (Kenha) Director Genera Peter Mundinia said plans are at an advanced stage to contract a transaction adviser to implement the toll stations programme.

Once collected, the funds will be used to maintain roads as Kenya embarks on an ambitious plan to construct 7,000km of roads across the country in the next five years. To date, only 2,000km of roads have been constructed by the Jubilee administration since it took over power in 2013.

Deputy President William Ruto has, however, clarified that the 10,000km figure in the Jubilee manifesto was for the next 10 years and not for their first term in power.

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“A policy to guide the toll stations will soon be approved by the Cabinet,” said Mr Mundinia. “We expect the first toll roads to be operational by the end of 2020.”

The director-general, who was speaking in Nairobi, further indicated that the government would use the Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework to mobilise funds for the initiative.

He said a feasibility study shows that the private sector can help bridge the road infrastructure funding gap.

Mr Mundinia added that a number of developed nations use toll roads to build and maintain their networks, and so the concept is likely to succeed in Kenya.

“We have decided to enlist the help of the private sector as public resources are insufficient to build highways fast enough,” he said.

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When tolling was first mooted four years ago, it was proposed that motorists would be charged at the rate of Sh1.79 for pick-ups and matatus, and Sh1.20 per kilometre for passenger cars.

Large trucks were to part with Sh3.59 per kilometre, medium trucks Sh2.39 and buses Sh2.39 per kilometre.

Road tolls were initially introduced in Kenya in the late 1980s but were scrapped in the mid-1990s in favour of the Roads Maintenance Levy to eliminate rampant corruption at the stations.

Tolling 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.

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