Toll gates will not be rolled out any time soon because the country does not have adequate volumes of traffic to justify a fully fledged tolling regime, authorities have said.
This is according to an assessment by Australian consulting firm SMEC Holdings Limited was contracted by Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC), a government agency that deals with public private partnership deals.
In a written response to questions on Friday, PPPC chief executive officer Jimmy Lipunga said the findings have revealed that most of the traffic is concentrated within a-20 kilometre radius of the major urban centres.
He was, however, quick to mention that the consultants believe that tolling can be reviewed in the medium-term, adding they are recommending interim measures such as implementing a performance based road maintenance framework as a prelude to fully fledged tolling.
“Currently, government through the Ministry of Transport and Public Works and Ministry of Finance are mulling over the recommendations.
“Government is considering a phased approach which may involve coming up with pilot cases on the most viable sections of the road network,” he said.
Commentators have said the idea of toll gates is good as a means of raising funds for the construction and rehabilitation of roads, but argued that what is key is whether the money raised will be used for the intended purpose.
The Malawi government embarked on the project last year in which PPPC engaged SMEC Holdings Limited to conduct a feasibility study on toll gates to be mounted on the major tarmac roads as one way of raising finances for public road maintenance, rehabilitation and repairs.
In an interview on Friday, Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera while admitting that traffic is not at the required level to mount the toll gates, said government would start with a pilot phase of the project.
He said: “In the meantime, the consultant identified about 500 kilometres of roads which can be tolled. We are considering picking just one or two roads.
“We know that road traffic is growing rapidly in the country. With close to 500 vehicles entering in the country monthly, we know that in no time we will have the necessary traffic.”
Earlier, Roads Fund Administration public relations officer Masauko Mngwaluko said the project is crucial adding that it will boost revenue collection.
“This project will raise much needed additional funding for the maintenance of the road network. This will lead to further improvement in the condition of the road network,” he said.
Mngwaluko said once the toll gate roll-out, annual road revenue collections, currently at K22 billion, are expected to go up by K7 billion.