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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Toll Gate Fare Increase Long Overdue -Works Minister Avers

By Amin Kef (Ranger)

During the Tuesday February 13, 2024 Press Conference held by the Ministry of Information and Civic Education, the Minister of Works and Public Assets, Dr. Denis Sandy, announced a significant increase in toll gate fees on the Wellington-Masiaka route. That decision which will come into effect on March 1st, 2024, comes after prolonged negotiations with the China Railway Seven Group (CRSG), the company responsible for managing the toll road.

According to Dr. Denis Sandy, the rationale behind the increase stems from the considerable fluctuations in the exchange rate since 2017. He furthered that despite a substantial depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar, CRSG had maintained the same toll prices, leading to a severe financial strain on the company.

“The Government, in recognizing the necessity for a balanced approach, engaged in negotiations to reach a feasible agreement, thereby avoiding a potential litigation scenario,” he also informed.

The delay in implementing the toll increase, while commendable in its intent to alleviate financial burdens on the populace became unsustainable, he pointed out.

Dr. Sandy argued that CRSG, operating under a Build, Operate, and Transfer model, required adjustments to toll fares to cover escalating operational costs, particularly in light of the economic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In trying to understand the contractual obligations between the Government and CRSG, the agreement signed in 2017 mandated CRSG to recoup construction costs over the operating period while ensuring the maintenance and repair of the road infrastructure. However, the disparity between toll collections in local currency and expenditure in US dollars necessitated a revision of toll fees to align with the contractual terms and economic realities, which the Minister also highlighted.

The Wellington-Masiaka toll road serves as a vital artery for transportation and commerce in Sierra Leone and since its construction, there has been a significant reduction in road accidents, contributing to enhanced safety for commuters and facilitating smoother traffic flow, thereby bolstering economic activities along the route.

According to the Minister of Works and Public Assets in light of those considerations, the announced toll fee adjustments aim to ensure the sustainability of the toll road infrastructure while upholding contractual obligations and promoting investor confidence in Sierra Leone’s infrastructure projects.

The new toll rates, effective March 1st, 2024, will be as follows:

1. Kekeh: Increased by 200% from Le1 to Le3
2. Taxi: Increased by 150% from Le2 to Le5
3. Mini vans and Jeep: Increased by 150% from Le4 to Le10
4. Light Vans/Poda Poda: Increased by 122% from Le18 to Le40
5. Heavy Duty Vehicles: Increased by 282.5% from Le183 to Le700
6. Fuel Tankers: Increased by 150% from Le100 to Le250.

The Minister emphasized the necessity of the adjustments, highlighting the imperative of maintaining the road’s condition and ensuring the safety and efficiency of transportation along the Wellington-Masiaka route.

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