March 4, 2016 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of Parliament yesterday ratified a contract agreement for the reconstruction of the Wellington-Masiaka road, which was signed between the government of Sierra Leone and the China Railway Seventh Group on 4 February, 2016.
MPs had refused to ratify the said agreement because the fact that the constructed road would be toll was not given adequate sensitisation.
It remains unclear though whether any such sensitization was done before the agreement was endorsed by Parliament yesterday.
In his presentation, Deputy Minister of Works, Housing and Infrastructure, Abdul B. Barrie said a memorandum of understanding had been signed with the China Railway Seventh Group, granting the latter the right to do feasibility studies, implement and operate the project for a four-lane toll road from Wellington to Masiaka.
He said because of the importance government attaches to the project, Sierra Leone Road Authority officials explained details of the project to lawmakers in a power point presentation, with the justifications of the project outlined.
He said the project would help create jobs for unemployed youths, being the main highway linking the capital Freetown to the provinces.
He said the level of service provided by the existing two lanes would reduce drastically as a result of increased traffic, and that deteriorating condition of the pavement and creation of new access would be re-designed.
He said the new road would increase trade facilitation between neighbouring countries, thus leading to an increase in the country’s gross domestic product.
However, he explained that due to pressure from lawmakers and road users, alternative routes would be provided.
“Indeed, honourable members may want to say that the alternative routes will be too cumbersome. However, you would agree with me that the alternative routes to the toll road should be smooth and easy, or else motorist would prefer those routes. The construction period is four years, with one year defects liability period and toll operation will commence after the extension of the road to a four-lane from 0km-10km and after attaining 30% of site clearing works on the entire road,” he explained.
Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally welcome the clarifications about the toll road, to enable them provide better explanation to the public when questions would be asked about the introduction of toll fee.
The opposition lawmaker urged Ministry of Works, Sierra Leone Road Authority, Road Maintenance Fund Administration and China Railway Seventh Group to review certain sections of the agreement, however.