… as plan to make motorists pay meets stiff resistance
LESOTHO is planning to introduce toll-roads in order to generate more revenue for the management of the country’s road-infrastructure.
A toll-road, also known as turnpike or tollway, is a public or private thoroughfare for which a fee (or toll) is assessed for passage.
It is a form of road-pricing typically implemented to help recover the cost of road-maintenance, which amounts to a form of taxation.
Electronic toll collections (E-Tolls) or tollbooths or tollgates on the road, are used for the collection of the fee.
According to the Lesotho Road Fund Chief Executive Officer, Nkekeletse Makara, a feasibility study has already been conducted to determine the possibility of implementing the tolling system.
Mr Makara — who was speaking during the African Road Maintenance Funds Association Southern African Development Community Focal Group meeting in Maseru this week — however, noted the plan has met with stiff resistance from certain stakeholders.
“A feasibility study has already been done of tolling certain corridors in Lesotho.
“However, there has been resistance from some stakeholders regarding the issue. The idea has also been a politically sensitive one,” Mr Makara said.
More studies, he added, would be conducted until issues being raised by critics of the plan are resolved.
“This is a very sensitive matter. We would want to have all stakeholders grouped accordingly, and then put the proposal before them again and see their reaction to it,” he said.
According to Mr Makara, the consultation processes was going to be so lengthy it would be difficult to estimate when the toll system would be implemented.
“It is a very big project that should be handled with care. We cannot tell now when the implementation will be. There are still a lot of aspects to be looked into, such as the socio-economic impact it would have on the consumers.”
He further said no particular roads had been chosen for tolling “as yet”.
“What also needs to be mentioned is that no new roads will be built just for the system, but there will be intense refurbishment of the present infrastructure before the system is implemented.”
Mr Makara further said last year, the Road Fund’s revenue-collection had not been as successful as the preceding eight years due to ageing machinery, at the border-posts.
“The drop in revenue-collection has been caused by our old electronic system, which is why measures are underway for the procurement of new devices.
“Lesser revenue is being collected from fines on overloaded vehicles because weighing bridges at the border are dysfunctional.”
He further said the other revenue-sources such as petrol, diesel and road-maintenance levies, road traffic offences, vehicle licences and short-term vehicle-permits were not performing as expected, hence the dwindling income.
“Because of the reduced revenue, we are unable to meet the national maintenance requirement of the existing road network. The average condition-index of the road network is at 52 percent, which indicates bad or fair condition.”
Due to lack of technical know-how in Lesotho, Mr Makara said most of the roads were in a bad condition.
“Because of this situation, more money is being allocated from the Road Fund for road-rehabilitation, which should not be the case.
“There is profound need for the collection of more revenue, either through increased tariffs or the establishment of other sources such as toll-roads, in order to decrease the maintenance backlog.”
Consumer Protection Association Director, Lehlohonolo Chefa, said new roads would have to be built for the tolling concept to be realised.
Mr Chefa said the concept was good, but pointed out the roads were in such bad shape it would be unfair to make anyone pay a fee for their usage.
“We get the concept. Of course, we need road fees but not at the moment,” Mr Chefa said.
“We cannot, for example, put tollgates on a road like the one from Maseru to Teyateyaneng. It is in such bad condition, just like most of our roads.
“It has potholes, there are animals roaming next to it and most of our roads pass through villages. “Consumers would be unnecessarily burdened if they had to pay fees for such roads.”
Mr Chefa said alternative roads would have to be built for the concept to be implemented.
“World-class engineered highways should be built if the system is to be implemented. They should not have potholes and must be safe and protected.
“The roads will also have to be strong enough to carry cargo vehicles,” he said.