via Council in favour of urban tollgates Sunday, 27 October 2013 by Charlotte Muarurwa for Sunday Mail
Harare City Council has thrown its weight behind Government’s proposal to introduce urban tollgates, saying the facilities would help raise funds to improve road infrastructure.
In an interview last week, Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi said Town House representatives will soon meet Transport and Infrastructural Development Ministry officials to get a comprehensive picture of the initiative.
Dr Mahachi said the project would also help decongest the city.
“We welcome the urban tollgate idea. Hence, we are going to meet officials in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to enable us to understand the concept and see how we can make our input.
“We have to understand the concept first. It is quite an interesting project. In our view, we see it reducing traffic congestion in the city.”
Deputy Mayor Councillor Stewart Mutizwa said funds realised from the tollgates should ideally be used to improve infrastructure in the capital. He said the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) should not be allowed to collect the money.
“We think it is a good idea. However, the concept must be able to benefit local authorities. It is not a problem if the money is to develop our area.
“We were promised the same thing when the ministry took over vehicle licensing from council. They promised to improve the state of roads in the city, but the money we get from Zinara is not consistently disbursed.
“Zinara must honour their disbursement (obligations). If these tollgates are introduced, Zinara must not take over the money collected. For instance, all the motorists who use the Harare-Skyline tollgate will be heading to the capital, the hub of activity. However, nothing is being done to improve the state of roads.
“In the initial stages of any project, you agree, but there are problems: when the money comes, people tend to divert it to other purposes, thereby breaching agreements.”
Urban planning expert Mr Percy Toriro welcomed the proposal, saying it would help de-congest the city. He said authorities should also assess the initiative from different angles.
“I think we need to separate tolling and the current state of roads and strategise on how we can move forward. Without funding, the roads cannot improve. So tolling is good in creating funds for road maintenance. The vehicle population in Zimbabwe has increased tremendously over the decade, but the condition of roads has not improved. This means things will not improve if we do not do anything.”
Mr Toriro added that it was also important to ensure the proposed system does not cause further congestion during peak periods. He said local authorities should take the opportunity to improve and invest in the mass transport system to promote the use of buses or trains.
“The best method in an urban set-up is e-tolling because you do not stop the vehicle. When it passes through a tollgate, it is recorded digitally and the bill is sent home at the end of the month. In an urban set-up, the method of tolling being proposed must not inconvenience the public at all.
That is very important. It is also important to know the objectives of urban tollgates.
“Local authorities must also invest in infrastructure to support the mass transport system. In developed countries, public transport is convenient such that driving a car is not a status symbol at all. One prefers a bus or train.”
Urban Transport Association of Zimbabwe secretary-general Mr Felix Mpofu said the Government and council should go straight ahead to introduce urban tollgates.