RFA considers toll roads

The parastatal says a user-pay system means that users do not pay for the maintenance of roads they do not use.

09 August 2019 | Infrastructure

The Road Fund Administration (RFA) wants to investigate the viability of tolling Namibian roads as a potential additional revenue stream to the Road User Charging System (RUCS) that collects funds for the maintenance and rehabilitation of national roads in urban and rural settings.

At the start of this month, the RFA put out a tender calling for the determination of the road network or sections thereof for tolling and the 'toll' infrastructure to be provided.

The proposed study is further to determine toll fees, including toll revenue forecasted over a five-, 10-, 20-, and 30-year horizon, and collection mechanisms to be employed, as well as a legal framework in respect of introducing tolling in Namibia.

RFA CEO Ali Ipinge said the Fund is currently only looking into the feasibility of tolling.

The last study done on this was in 2008, and it found that tolling of any Namibian road was “not feasible” because the country then did not have the proportionate daily traffic volumes to justify tolling.

Since then the Namibian vehicle population has increased from 196 000 registered vehicles to 370 000, which Ipinge said “might be sufficient to build a business case for tolling”.

“But at this stage we do not know, and hence we are investigating the feasibility of tolls,” Ipinge said.

He said the current road user charges fee structure is not equitable.

“As vehicles become more fuel efficient, road users pay less per kilometre of road travelled. However, lower income groups are still stuck with fuel inefficient cars resulting in them paying more per kilometre of road travelled. This disparity has simply become too large to ignore and sadly, the lower income road users end up subsidising road maintenance for the wealthier road user,” Ipinge said.

To that end, he said, the RFA is seeking a road user charging methodology that is fair and transparent to all road users and “socially just for the less fortunate”.

Government pays for the development of new roads, while the RFA collects funds through its RUCS for the maintenance and preservation of national roads.

Ipinge said by moving towards a “user-pay” principle - a method he said is more popular worldwide - road users will not pay for the maintenance of roads they do not use.

“The RFA aims to strike a balance between road user charges and vehicle running costs,” he said.

Ipinge said as road user charges increase, road quality improves and vehicle maintenance costs fall.

At this “intersection”, he said, road user charges, vehicle maintenance costs, and overall transport costs are minimised for the road user.

“We do not believe that Namibia is at this sweet spot and therefore we are pursuing new and innovative ways to get there. Thereby ensuring value for money for the road users and creating a conducive environment for the advancement of the government's logistic hub development agenda,” Ipinge said.



CATHERINE SASMAN

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