Africa Moyo Senior Business Reporter
Government conceded on Wednesday that it is not economic to dualise the 938km Harare – Beitbridge and Harare – Chirundu highways.As consistently reported by Business Weekly, dualising the entire highways was going to be a major cost to Government as opposed to widening it and only dualising 10km stretches as it approaches towns to ease congestion.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services tweeted: “Dualisation will be carried out as one enters and exits towns in order to manage congestion.
The dualisation would be on 10km on both sides of the towns.
On the Harare-Chirundu highway, work will be carried out to straighten some of the curves. #TSP #VISION2030
“Feasibility studies have indicated that the complete dualisation of the highway is not viable because traffic volumes are not sufficient for the project to recoup its costs. The entire highway would require 6000 vehicles daily, paying tolls fees at each of the seven tollgates #TSP
“Presently, traffic on the Beitbridge- Masvingo-Harare highway is about 2 600 vehicles per day while on the Harare-Chirundu highway it’s 1 040 vehicles per day.
In light of this, the best course of action is to widen most parts of the road #TSP #Vision2030
“The road is on a 8/10 configuration whereby 8m of the road is tarred while 2m is the gravel shoulder. The road will be widened to make it 12,5m in width.
“Making it at par with the Beitbridge-Polokwane and Chirundu-Lusaka H\highways which have similar configurations #TSP #Vision2030.”
On September 28 this year, the Business Weekly reported that Government was relaxing its previous position that the Harare-Beitbridge highway be dualised.
Road construction experts had told Business Weekly that full dualisation of the highway was not economic due to “low volumes of traffic”.
The experts had suggested that between 2 500 and 3 000 vehicles pay at tollgates along the highway everyday, making no business sense to dualise the road since it was going to take “forever” to recoup the estimated $1,7 billion investment.
From Harare to Beitbridge, there are four tollgates (Skyline, Mushagashi, Chivi and Lutumba) where vehicles pay a minimum of $2 each, implying the country collects about $744 000 per month.
In a year, $9 million would have been collected, which is seen by road experts as too “little” to settle the estimated $1,7 billion loan required to undertake the massive project.
Earlier feasibility studies have suggested that dualising the Harare-Beitbridge Highway would cost $998 million while the Harare ring-road would gobble $300 million.
The Harare-Chirundu road section was estimated to cost $665 million, to make a combined $1,7 billion.
The $998 million loan for the Harare-Beitbridge section was set to be repaid over 20 years from toll fees.
But given changed circumstances since the last feasibility studies were done, the cost for the road project might rise, implying the repayment period would correspondingly jump if some funds are sourced elsewhere.
Experts have proposed the dualisation of the Harare-Chivhu stretch, and in areas where the road approaches towns and steep gradients, with the rest of the highway being widened.
At the time we published the story in the Business Weekly, Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Advocate Fortune Chasi said: “We have not insisted that it must be dualised all the way.”
Entirely dualising a 583km stretch of a highway would have been a first in the region considering that South Africa’s N1 Highway (from Beitbridge to Johannesburg), is only dualised as it approaches cities.
Even the Chirundu-Lusaka highway is not dualised.
Government is reportedly in talks with top Chinese firm, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation (AFECC), so that it undertakes the project.
A top AFECC official yesterday said there was not much movement on the deal at the moment.
“There is nothing, they said they are following procedure which includes going through the AG (Attorney-General’s) office, then Cabinet Committee and lastly Cabinet.”