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Uproar over toll gate fees

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TAKING SHAPE— Chingeni Toll Gate Plaza construction site

The government has gazetted and released toll fees that vehicles passing through the Blantyre-Lilongwe M1 Road would be paying at toll gates at Chingeni in Balaka and Kalinyeke in Dedza districts but some road users have described the fees as exorbitant.

The list of the toll fees shows that light vehicles will be paying K1,700 while minibuses will be parting with K3,400, with trucks carrying abnormal loads paying K20,000 for a one-way trip.

That is not all. 17 to 31-seater buses and 2 to 5-tonne trucks would be paying K5,100 while those above 5 to 10 tonnes would be coughing K7,000 and K8,000 will be applicable to trucks weighing more than 10 tonnes.

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According to communication made on June 24 2021, by Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu, but released on August 6 2021, there will be a discount on frequent users and local users.

For frequent users, the discount is 75 percent, applicable at the 11th passage at the toll gate, and 20 percent for local users who reside within a radius of 10 kilometres of the tollgate.

Roads Fund Administration (RFA) spokesperson Masauko Ngwaluko confirmed the development, saying the fees would become effective on September 1 2021, which will coincide with the date the Chingeni toll praza would be launched.

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“At every toll gate, one has to pay. The tariffs were looked at by the Ministry of Finance, Transport Ministry, RFA but, of course, we also looked at regional prices. This means the prices were heavily scrutinised,” he said.

However, Isaac Mafuel, who owns taxis and operates on the M1 Road, said the tariffs were on the higher side and would have serious repercussions on road users.

“This is robbery; we do not know how they arrived at this but just think of tax drivers who are given targets. If the target is K10,000 per day, how will that be compensated? Transport prices will go up, affecting the local man and prices of local products,” he said.

Minibus owners association of Malawi Secretary General Coaxly Kamange concurred with Mafuel, saying the tariffs were exorbitant.

“It’s a welcome idea looking at how bad the road is but the prices are not fair. Number one; you have to know that, in other countries smaller vehicles do not pay anything. Number two; we have already been hit by Covid, which resulted in the government reducing passenger capacity. Now they are coming up with these prices; it’s completely out of order… A reasonable price for smaller vehicles could have been not more than K500,” he said.

It is expected that the toll gates would boost revenue collection by 15 percent, generating for RFA between K5.4 billion and K10.8 billion annually.

According to RFA, the funds will be used for maintenance and rehabilitation of the M1 Road.

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