Nairobi-Mau Summit project moves step closer to reality

Thursday, November 12th, 2020 01:57 |
Ongoing construction of Mau Summit, Njoro and Nyahururu Turnoff Interchanges along the Nairobi-Malaba (A8) highway in Nakuru. Photo/Courtesy

Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka

 Plans to upgrade the  Nairobi-Mau Summit road into a modern four-lane dual highway edged closer to reality after the government published a public notice announcing the imminent launch of the project.

The Sh168.1 billion project will be implemented through a Public Private Partnerships (PPP) agreement.

Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) announced the construction is expected to  be completed in three years and six months.

Road is expected to expand capacity and improve quality between Nairobi and Mau Summit to accommodate the increasing traffic in a safe and sustainable manner.

A notice placed by KeNHA in the local press indicated that a commercial contract for rehabilitation, improvement and expansion of the Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit (A8) highway was signed on September 30.

“The project comprises the widening of approximately 175 km of the A8 highway between Rironi and Mau Summit into a four lane dual carriageway and future augmentation into a six lane carriageway in sections depending upon traffic volumes; and rehabilitation of approximately 57.8 km of the existing single carriageway of A8 South highway between Rironi and Naivasha via Mai Mahihu,” the statement said.

The project is one of the largest in the country in recent times. It is over five times the cost of Thika Road, which  was constructed to a tune of Sh32 billion.

The announcement is good news for truckers and commuters who use the busy road, which experiences frequent traffic snarl ups that cost time and money.

Nairobi-Mau Summit road is also synonymous with serious accidents, especially those involving trucks on transit to neighbouring countries and passenger vehicles going to western Kenya.

On completion, the 232.8-kilometre project will make it easier for farmers and traders to access the city by significantly reducing the amount of time spent on the road.

The project will involve construction of a viaduct through Nakuru town, and construction of grade separated interchanges.

“The project largely contributes to the realisation and implementation of the PPP agenda in Kenya through the delivery of first-class infrastructure projects capable of meeting social and economic requirements of the people of Kenya in a timely, transparent and accountable manner as envisioned in the Vision 2030 and the Big Four Agenda,” the statement notes.

Common practice

The road is part of the Northern Corridor, one of the busiest and most important transportation corridors in East and Central Africa.

It provides a gateway through Kenya to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, DRC Congo and serves as an access and transportation link for approximately six million Kenyans.

KeNHA has announced recommendations for motorists using the highway to pay through toll stations erected on the road.

Tom Odongo, Director of City Planning in Nairobi, says it is a common practice to make a road pay for itself especially in cases where the contractor is paying for the construction of a project out of his own pocket as opposed to using government funding.

He, however, warned that the cost is usually higher under such arrangements compared to when the government is paying for the implementation of the project upfront.

“It is a question of balancing the cost of paying outright versus having a concessionaire pay,” said Odongo.

Samuel Nyandemo, a senior economist at the University of Nairobi, described the project as a timely intervention.

Nyandemo says the project will eventually lower the cost of transportation along the Northern Corridor despite the erection of toll stations.

“It is a more cost effective undertaking. It is better to build a road that way as opposed to getting a loan and then paying later,” he said.

The Rift Valley Connect Consortium won the tender to construct the road, according to KeNHA. The consortium comprises three companies, namely, VINCI Highways SAS, Meridian Infrastructure Africa Fund, and VINCI Concessions SAS.

Tender process began in November 2016 and attracted 10 consortia.

According to KeNHA, the contractor will raise the money required for the project upfront, and then be paid from money collected on toll stations.

After construction, the contractor will operate and maintain the highway for 26 years and six  months, after which he will transfer it back to the Kenya government.

The project is a key contribution to the vision 2030 and Big Four Agenda.

Since ascending to power in 2013, Jubilee administration has undertaken several mega infrastructure projects, some that have cost hundreds of billions.

They include construction of the Sh327 billion Standard Gauge Railway, Sh1.3 billion Ngong Road expansion, Mombasa Port expansion and the Sh51 billion expressway connecting the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the Westlands among others. 

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