Roads Authority completes Road Transport Sustainability Plan

Key Highlights:

  • Hints on shadow tolling instead of toll gates
  • Moves to curtail borrow pits along the main highways
  • Say southern roads are far developed compared to the northern parts

The sustainability plan will help the Roads Authority effectively and efficiently incorporate sustainability goals into the agency’s overall goals and objectives of managing a sustainable transport system.

“The Road Authority strives to achieve sustainability by providing a safe and efficient national road network, which supports economic growth and ensures access for all while preserving the environment for current and future generations,” reads the sustainability statement.

Namibia’s Fourth National Development Plan stipulates that the country’s infrastructure is in good condition including the national transportation infrastructure, electricity distribution lines, dams, telecommunications, and mobile communication infrastructure.

However, Namibia faces challenges in maintaining and improving infrastructure as its infrastructure revenue levels are not at the level of finance needed for growth and maintenance needs and the transport sector faces other hurdles such as a growing population, high accident numbers and limited transportation planning.

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Transport Sector Needs

As part of the process of developing the Sustainability Plan one of the tasks was to identify the transport sector issues and needs. Among them was the improvement of accessibility in rural areas so that communities have access to basic services such as schools, clinics, and jobs. Namibia is faced with the development of rural communities along roads, which sometimes hinder mobility. The roadway network needs to be preserved for mobility, insists the plan.

As part of the process of developing the Sustainability Plan one of the tasks was to identify the transport sector issues and needs. Among them was the improvement of accessibility in rural areas so that communities have access to basic services such as schools, clinics, and jobs. Namibia is faced with the development of rural communities along roads, which sometimes hinder mobility. The roadway network needs to be preserved for mobility, insists the plan.

Equity was another need that was identified and thus the improvement of resource distribution between the northern and southern regions of Namibia. The northern region has not received as much development resources compared to the southern trading hubs, says the plan. There is an interest to understand how to use, test, and verify them and a large market to make use of these products in Namibia.

Improving of safety for pedestrians and on the roadways was noted. Gravel roads can be treacherous and some drivers are unaware how to drive on these types of roads. The RA has appointed a consultant to carry out the rehabilitation of borrow pits near the roadways left after construction which have become hazardous. Another issue is of effectively using existing data and or improve data collecting methods on roadway accidents through continuous road safety studies. The current data does not show locations of accidents and more quality data are needed.

Namibia needs to focus on multimodal needs specifically on railways and roadways. There is the need to ensure that heavy loads on roadways (such as from mines) pay adequate mass distance charges when they impose loads on roadways in exceedance of design criteria, thereby lessening the roads burden, for instance, if mines shift to rail-based transport systems.

While this is currently being addressed through a draft bill containing a provisional clause to this effect, adequate mass distance charges would also solve the challenge, says the new plan.

This issue also ties into the broader issue of funding road maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrades without going through political channels that is government funding.

It also emerged that railways are inefficient, slow, and not well-connected. According to the plan, with regards to funding opportunities, toll roads may be difficult to enforce and are not feasible while ‘shadow tolling’ or other concepts may be more applicable.

Shadow toll is a payment structure where the road user does not pay any toll; instead the concessionaire collects revenue from the government in proportion to the number of vehicles using the road.

While private operators have only the pricing tools to collect revenue, government additionally has the taxation tool as well which it can use to charge a higher road tax to its citizens. One way of doing this is imposing a cess on fuel.

The shadow tolling system effectively, makes the road services ‘free’ for the user. At the same time, the government need not bear the extra burden of paying the toll, because it collects the money through the cess on petrol or diesel. The proposed cess would be minimal (less than a rupee) as it will be spread over a huge base and hence the citizens would not feel the pinch of the increase.

The highway road traffic would not be hampered by high toll prices, and thus be closer to their capacity utilization, ensuring maximum economic and social benefit.

Public-Private Partnerships could also provide an opportunity for improvement of weigh bridge operations. Currently, weigh stations close at night and trucks can avoid paying by traveling at night. Also, the weigh bridges are often out of the way of major corridors.

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