A ‘toll’ order

• RFA’s tolling system plan draws ire
Road users and the official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement, yesterday reacted angrily to the Road Fund Administration's plans to introduce a tolling system.
Jemima Beukes
Ali Ipinge, the head of the Road Fund Administration (RFA), said there is urgent need for immediate key projects to fund the maintenance of roads in the country, which will include the introduction of a tolling system, a road tariff review and a fuel levy increase.

Currently, Namibia’s estimated fuel consumption stands at 1.7 billion litres a year.

According to him, the tolling system is not based on its controversial South African concept, but on extensive research and a decent feasibility study.

“We are not looking at electronic tolling but at a boom system that will be at a toll plaza. It will not be post-paid, but you pay as you go.

“We still have a way to go before this is implemented, but what is critical is that we cannot sustain our roads and we should be prepared for this,” he said.

Some of the road charge changes suggested by Namene Kalili, RFA’s executive for programme management, policy and advice, include a 50% litre increase on the fuel levy, a 10% increase on mass distance charges and a 10% increase in cross-border charges, as well as a 10% increase for abnormal load fees and another 10% increase on road-carried permits.

‘Exploitation’

The official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), yesterday condemned the move, calling it “an exploitation of the people”.

In a statement, party spokesperson Hidipo Hamata said: “The economic bane on consumers today can never allow asking people to pay more with volatile oil prices. The introduction of toll gates in Namibia will only overburden transport users”.

Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta) president Jeffrey Platt said he does not believe Namibia’s population justifies the introduction of a tolling system.

“As far as I am concerned, I don’t think it is a good idea because our population is not as big as our neighbour South Africa and other countries where tolling is used,” he said.

Platt added that it could affect traffic flow on roads where toll booths are set up.

“The RFA and the Roads Authority [RA] need to get an income, yes, but I don’t think it is a good decision.”

Revenue increases

Meanwhile, Ipinge said RFA’s revenue has increased by 11%q to N$2.42 billion by March this year, of which over N$2.2 billion has been invested in the management, maintenance and rehabilitation of our roads.

The remaining money has been spent to repay debt and service outstanding debts and loans, he said at an annual stakeholder consultation meeting held yesterday in Windhoek.

“We raised N$350 million from the domestic market to implement the flagship [low-volume sealed roads] strategy.

“Over 14 roads countrywide were upgraded to low-volume seal and RFA has attended to major rehabilitation activities on key national roads such as Mariental-Keetmanshoop, Karibib-Omaruru, Rundu-Divundu and Onunho-Eenhana,” he said.

“We have also supported re-gravelling and maintenance of roads in the Etosha National Park to support the tourism sector and assisted government with the labour-based and access roads programme, connecting our communities to critical services and amenities such as schools, clinics and hospitals.”

‘Massive reduction’

Ipinge further pointed out that Road User Charging System (RUCS) income is expected to grow by 32% from N$2.35 billion to N$3.1 billion, and that expenditure on road sector investment is projected to increase by 21% from N$2 billion to N$3.3 billion.

RUCS largely refers to annual vehicle registration fees, abnormal load fees, cross-border charges, fuel levy and mass distance charges.

The RFA head added that this is despite the “massive reduction” in revenue of N$350 million in response to a government request to reduce the fuel levy by 50% to cushion citizens from the impact of the fuel increase in April, caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

RFA further needs N$500 million to fund local authority roads, which includes 57 local authorities and 14 regional councils, it said.

“You should also raise your own revenue in your town and villages to fund your infrastructure. If you compare in terms of the current mandate, through RA, we fully fund the administration and programmes of roads.

“We have gone out of our way to sign [agreements] with every local authority to expand this mandate to help to manage their roads much better,” he said.

Insufficient funding

RA’s Oshoveli Tuli Hiveluah cautioned that the current approved funding is insufficient to maintain the existing road network and will result in very poor and inaccessible roads within a five-year period. This will also increase the already-high road fatality rates, he said.

Speaking on behalf of RA CEO Conrad Lutombi, he said 7% of the total road network is poor to very poor and there is an excessively high need for road resealing.

“Currently, road users do not contribute adequately for the RFA to fund maintenance.”

The bad roads cause damage to vehicles and increase fuel consumption, he said.

According to Hiveluah, the current maintenance funding deficit stands at about N$2.4 billion.

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