What you need to know:
Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) hired Egis Road Operation to operate, maintain the Kampala – Entebbe Expressway and collect toll fees on behalf of the government for five years. Ms Joy Nabasa, the public relations manager, spoke to Monitor about what has transpired since January this year when it started operating.
It is now a year since you were awarded the contract to operate and maintain the first toll road of the country, the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway. What has been achieved so far?
We are grateful that motorists and the general public embraced the tolling experience. In less than three months from when we launched the toll operations, we managed to see a huge increase in the number of unique passages on the expressway.
Ugandans showed resilient support for the act of tolling which enables citizens to enjoy world-class service at a minimal fee. Since toll collection commencement in January we have been able to collect Shs13 billion and on average, we serve about 20,000 travelers per day on all the toll plazas.
We also came up with a unique prepaid solution for our frequent customers who use the expressway. We launched the Upesi card which allows road users to preload their accounts and just swipe at the different tolls on the expressway. The Upesi cards have different discounts which favor the expressway way road users.
How does the Upesi card work?
The Upesi card is a convenient tool for road users who do not want to spend time exchanging money at the toll booths. I’m happy to report that many road users have embraced this and we have over nine 9,500 Upesi cards purchased and used by road users since the commencement of the toll fees collections. The Upesi card enables the holder to enjoy fast convenience service with just a swipe at the toll gates which takes only five seconds and you exit. Secondly, the Upesi cardholder enjoys convenience at a great discount compared to the customers paying cash.
We have three Upesi card options with three different discount percentages: The first one is the Easy Pass with a 10 percent discount per passage and one card can be used by many vehicles provided there are enough funds loaded on this card.
The Weekly Pass with up to 50 percent discount per passage valid for seven days. This card is used by frequent road users and it comes with 14 trips.
The last one is the monthly pass with up to 70 percent discount per passage valid for 30 days. This comes with 60 trips and is also used by frequent road users.
There have been concerns about security and road safety. How is this being addressed?
We are doing several initiatives to drive road safety along the expressway. We have been running road safety messages to our social media community in a bid to drive awareness of how expressways are used.
We launched this campaign at the beginning of the year and we have gotten some good results. Key tips along the expressway revolve around driving within the speed limit, keeping left unless overtaking, avoiding driving under the influence of alcohol, and keeping an appropriate distance between vehicles, among others.
Our second initiative on road safety is the toll-free emergency line, which can be used by our customers at all times and we will be able to assist them. This number has been used by expressway road users who have had car breakdowns on the road, accidents, and other emergencies.
We are currently working on the lighting along the expressway, which will enhance its security and safety for road users. We are working on an ambitious project which will see the road fully lit by the end of the year.
Apart from using the road, how else have Ugandans benefited from your company managing this facility?
We work with local partners to demonstrate our capacity to structure a comprehensive operation and maintenance offer and commit to it. Particularly in Uganda, Egis has more than 300 employees with only three expatriates who are here to transfer technical knowledge to Ugandans. This has improved the livelihoods and expanded the knowledge base of Ugandans. We have also partnered with local companies such as Pinnacle Security and Abubaker Technical Services in the execution of expressway operations.
What is your message to Ugandans?
Ugandans should know that operating and maintaining Kampala- Entebbe expressway is the first of many infrastructure developments of Egis in this country and we look forward to providing better service delivery, creating more job opportunities for Ugandans to learn and acquire more skills and knowledge on more projects we are yet to embark on here in Uganda. We are here to build a smarter and more sustainable future for Ugandans.