The construction of the Nairobi Mombasa Expressway has been thrown into turmoil after the US firm that bagged the contract refused to build the project on toll fees basis. The government of Kenya had asked Bechtel to build the road using its own money then charge Kenyan motorists toll fees up until the money and profit is recovered.
However, Betchel rejected this proposal and asked the State to pay it upfront for the construction. This may force Kenya back to the borrowing market to fund the road. “The contractor has indicated that the country will get better value for money if the road is constructed under an EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) model rather than a toll model,” a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) said. Bechtel argues that the alternative public-private partnerships (PPP) model where the contractor sources for funds would cost five times more at $15 billion (Sh. 1.5 trillion) and take much longer to complete.
The proposed Nairobi Mombasa Expressway will cover 485-kilometres. It will be a dual-carriage motorway with four lanes to ease congestion and cut travel time between the two cities from the current 10 to about four hours.It will run parallel to the current Nairobi-Mombasa highway and will help promote trade and movement in Kenya and the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and South Sudan.
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Bechtel estimates that construction of the expressway will create 500 jobs and involve local businesses supplying up to 100,000 tonnes of cement and 40,000 tonnes of steel.
The China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the parent firm of China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is currently using the toll fees model to fund and construct the Nairobi Expressway. The CCCC is constructing the Nairobi Expressway at an estimated cost of $668 million (Sh. 72.8 billion).
According to the Kenya National Highways Authority, KeNHA, the CRBC will be given outright concession to operate and run the expressway. “The private company will be granted a concession to build, operate and transfer the project for 30 years that includes a construction period of three years and thereafter an operation & maintenance period of 27 years,” KenHA said.
Motorists using the road that will link Mlolongo to the Nairobi-Nakuru highway via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) will pay between $1 (Sh. 109.4) and $15 (Sh. 1,641) depending on the size of their cars and the distance traveled.