Government defends Kampala-Entebbe Expressway low traffic

Thursday December 5 2019

Fears. There are fears that this infrastructure

Fears. There are fears that this infrastructure project, which cost a staggering Shs1.7trillion, of which Shs1.2trillion was a loan from China’s EXIM Bank, is fraught with fleeting success. File Photo  

By FREDERIC MUSISI

The Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) revealed yesterday that the tolling system at Kampala-Entebbe Expressway (KEE) will be operational by June next year, when they expect to have finalised procurement and employment of a contractor to manage the toll gates.

Procurement for contractor
Unra’s director for roads and bridges, Mr Isaac Wani was speaking at the launch of the Roads Act 2019 which operationalises tolling for KEE and other proposed expressways, said procurement for the contractor is expected to be complete by March next year.

He also revealed that the Roads Authority and Ministry of Works are currently fine-tuning proposed toll fees, which were informed by a recent “Willingness to Pay survey” which looked motorists’ views.

“The survey was done; an analysis of the toll fees was also done, and are currently before the Minister for perusal,” Mr Wani said.

For many motorists, the Kampala- Entebbe Expressway is a driver’s paradise. It is breath-taking to meander across the swamp-fringed green landscape and the well-manicured lawn at Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa and see the sun poke the shores of the Lake.

But there are fears that this infrastructure project, which cost a staggering Shs1.7trillion, of which Shs1.2trillion was a loan from China’s EXIM Bank, is fraught with fleeting success.

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No toll
The 51.4km thoroughfare, the country’s first toll road, was commissioned last year in June by the China government former vice premier Mr Wang Yang, amidst fanfare and high expectations.
Seventeen months later, the road has been open to motorists but the tolling system is not operational. Traffic is meek which has cast doubt on the prospects of generating enough money to pay back the Chinese loan.

Mr Wani, however, defended that for the expressway to realise its intended goals, it has to work within a network of infrastructure to generate “seamless flow of traffic” which is currently not the case.

“That is why we are looking for finances to construct the flyovers, and other expressways around to generate seamless traffic. If we can do that, in 10 or so years traffic volumes on that road will be high.”

Low traffic
The low traffic volumes on KEE have been attributed to several factors, key among them; the road was conceived as part of the plans to decongest Kampala city and to take up traffic from the ailing Kampala-Entebbe road. But it starts at Busega and yet the largest traffic congestion is at Clock Tower along the old Entebbe Road.

Access
Likewise, a large section of the expressway is ‘access controlled’ so it cannot be easily joined from anywhere, rendering it useless for most motorists who opt to stick to the old road despite the messy traffic volume.

Road Act 2019
The Transport state minister for works, Gen Katumba Wamala hailed the Road Act 2019 that repeals the 1949 Road Act and 1969 Access Road Act, which he said will go a long way in addressing modern challenges such as protection of road reserves and littering.

costs of kampala expressway
Construction of the four lane road by China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) cost $479m (Shs1.7 trillion).

Another $4.9m (Shs18b) tender for supervision was handed to Beijing Expressway Supervision Co. Ltd.

Seventeen months later, the road has been open to motorists but the tolling system is not operational. Traffic is meek which has cast doubt on the prospects of generating enough money to pay back the Chinese loan.

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