Toll Gate Fare Increase Long Overdue

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 By Patience Carr

The recently announced Increase in toll gate fares for vehicles plying the Wellington-Masiaka road is long overdue, but the humane government of President Julius Maada Bio had delayed it. The contractors of the Wellington-Masiaka toll road had since 2020 been agitating for the Increase in toll fares but government did not want any further financial burden on the people given that they were battling with Covid-19 at the time the China Railway Seventh Group was demanding the increase.

However, the delay was not sustainable and the government would not want a litigation by a company that has been of immense help to the country since it started operations in Sierra Leone some twenty years ago. The agreement that was signed in 2017 by the erstwhile APCfor the construction of the Wellington to Masiaka road was a Build, Operate and Transfer model. It was intended for the company to recoup the money that it uses for the construction of the road for the duration of the operating period.

The contract also makes provision for the repair and maintenance of the road for the operating period, in order for the road to be in good shape when final handing over is done. It is important to know that the contract amount was in dollars at the time the contract was signed, but the toll fare was charged in our local currency, the Leone. Between 2007 and 2023, there has been a significant drop in our local currency against the US dollar which has adversely affected the smooth operation of the company CRSG. Whilst they are collecting dues in Leones, the cost of repairs and maintenance in the contract they signed in 2017 was in USD. What they are receiving in Leones is far less than what they’re spending in dollars to do the repairs and other works, as a result of the depreciation of the Leone.

Fuel and other operating costs since 2017 had quadrupled, whilst the toll fare had remained the same. Therefore, the need for an increase in toll fare to match the company’s overhead costs and to keep to the terms of the contract, is overdue.

The government had delayed CRSG from increasing the toll on the road in consideration of the impact on the people. This, however is not sustainable as the company cannot keep running at a loss. Therefore the need for a slight increase in toll fares was necessitated.

The importance of the road should not be lost on the people. Sierra Leone has to be marketed as an investment destination and the toll road contract is one key PPP project that portrays that image of the country. Any attempt at breaching the terms of the contract by the government, would scare away potential investors.

It is also important for people to know how much road accident fatalities the Wellington Masiaka toll road has reduced. Since the construction of the toll road, the frequency of accidents on the road has reduced drastically. In fact head-to-head collisions, which were common occurrences before then, have not occurred since the road was constructed.

Passengers traveling time between the distance has been bolstered. The toll road has greatly reduced business transactions time as movement is now swifter.

The increase is necessary to keep the road in shape and to reduce fatalities on the road.

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