A taxi pays for access to the Expressway on Saturday. COURTESY PHOTO
Entebbe, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government collected Sh2.5 billion in the first month of tolling Kampala-Entebbe expressway, says the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA). The tolling exercise commenced on January 8, 2022.
Allan Ssempebwa, a communications officer at UNRA, says the shillings 2.5 billion was collected within one month. He explains that an average of 20,000 passages are made daily through the three toll gates on the expressway, up from the projected daily average of 13,000 passages.
“We are happy that motorists are using the expressway and that the actual daily passages have so far surpassed our projections which at the time were made before toll fees were arrived at. We hope that the numbers grow even higher because we will use the toll collections to repay the loan for constructing the road and also for its operations and maintenance,” noted Ssempebwa.
Stephen Kitenga, the head of Communications at UNRA noted that the government collected shillings one billion in the first week of tolling the road from over 160,000 passages. The daily average was also 20,000 passages.
Ssempebwa now says the authority is working round the clock with French firm Egis to install streetlights on the road.
He noted, “We want to ensure road user satisfaction on the expressway so on top of security patrols, free towing services, we are going to address the issue of darkness along the road by installing streetlights latest April this year.”
Egis has been contracted to maintain the road and collect the road toll for five years ending 2026.
Motorists pay between Shillings 3,000 to shillings 18,000 per trip or pay discounted rates for weekly and monthly trips at the toll gates in Mpala, Busega and Kajjansi.
Uganda has to repay the 350 million US Dollar loan used to construct the 51.4 kilo metre expressway.This includes the 25km toll way section from Busega through Kajjansi to Mpala and 1.2 Km along Munyonyo Spur Road.
The government acquired the loan from the Exim Bank of China in May 2011, to finance construction of Entebbe Expressway.
According to the loan agreement, the loan repayment schedule runs from July 21, 2019, to January 21, 2032. In the 13-year repayment period, the government plans to pay 26.8 million US Dollars, about shillings 95 billion, a year. It means the government should collect at least shillings 7.8 billion per month.
However, Ssempebwa says the toll collections are deposited to the Consolidated Fund and it is the government to make arrangements on the lpan repayment and portion for road maintenance and operations.
The government has been repaying the loan since 2019 without the toll collections due to delays in the enactment of an enabling law for tolling the road.
Initially, the government had planned to repay the loan through revenues from the road toll on the Expressway upon its completion. However, the road toll system had not been implemented and the road was opened to traffic in June 2018. Now, with the legal framework in place, the Ministry of Works and Transport says that tolling roads will be a source of revenue generation to curb borrowing for infrastructural projects.
In the first month of tolling, frequent users of the road are incoming and outgoing air passengers, taxi operators, visitors and Entebbe residents.
Ivan Ruyonga, a taxi operator and a member of Fly Express Travelers Uganda Ltd, says he has been paying weekly because payment per passage is expensive. He makes an average of three round trip daily from Busega to Entebbe and is still contemplating whether or not to keep paying weekly or switch to monthly payments.
Another motorist, Haruna Kakooza who usually makes one round trip between Busega to Kajjansi, says he will stick to weekly payments until he records an increase in number of passengers boarding from Busega stage. He is however optimistic that more people will use the expressway when lights are installed since curfew has been lifted.
Kakooza and Ruyonga say they make only shillings 15,000 per trip because they have to cater for fuel, the toll and stage fees. “We carry ten passengers per trip and make shillings 50,000. But most of this money is eaten by costs. So we must pay weekly or monthly to reduce our operational costs,” says Kakooza.
Taxis charge passengers between Shillings 5,000 and shillings 8,000 to cater for the road toll of shillings 5,000 per passage. The taxis ply Entebbe-Kalerwa, Busega-Kajjansi, Busega -Entebbe and Entebbe-Kampala central business District routes. The trips take between thirty minutes to an hour compared to those taxis that ply the old Entebbe-Kampala road that take close to two hours due to traffic jam around Lweza, Seguku and Kibuye round about among other sections during peak hours.