Upkeep of Roads Very Dear

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Roads Authority Chief Executive Officer, Erastus Ikela, estimates the total annual expenditure required to manage and expand Namibia’s road network at a staggering N$900 million a year. He disclosed this figure when addressing a three-day seminar that started in Windhoek yesterday titled, “Road Sector Financing – Joint Annual Review”. Ikela warned that there would be very serious negative implications if the Namibian national road network were not properly funded. The general condition and asset value of the road network would decrease and the cost of operating vehicles on the roads would increase, with transport costs becoming higher than they should be as a result. “Furthermore, the current generation of road users could rightfully be blamed that they depleted a resource, and that they are leaving the next generation with the mess,” Ikela said. In an attempt to give people an idea of the scale of the problem, he provided a long list of figures and estimates to make his point. Namibia has 5 500 km of tarred bitumen roads and if a policy is adopted to reseal the tarred roads every 10 to 15 years it would be necessary to reseal 440 km a year. That would mean N$75 million needs to be budgeted just for periodic resealing of tarred roads at the current cost of around N$170 000 a kilometre. There are 25 000 km of gravel roads in the country and to re-gravel all of them at least once every 25 years will require 1 000 km a year to be re-gravelled. This, he said, would require adding another N$180 million to the N$75 million for tarred roads, at the current cost of N$180 000 per km for re-gravelling roads. Furthermore, grading gravel roads only every one to two months as part of regular maintenance would cost the country another N$100 million a year. Routine maintenance such as pothole patching at N$50 million, road reserve maintenance at N$10-20 million, road signs provision and upkeep at N$10-15 million and gravelling of still un-gravelled roads at N$20 million a year, would also have to be considered. According to Ikela, this brings the total amount just to keep the Namibian road network in a reasonable good and safe condition to way above N$450 million a year. This amount does not however include the cost of rehabilitating aged tarred roads. Even to rehabilitate all tarred roads only every 40 years – which Ikela made clear is not nearly enough – requires the rehabilitation of 135 km of tarred roads a year. Using a very low estimated cost of N$1 million a kilometre, this means a further expenditure in excess of N$135 million a year. There would however be even higher costs involved if Namibia were to even think of expanding its tarred road network. To expand the tarred road network by 100 kilometres a year to a high standard conventional design, at a cost of at least N$2 million a kilometre, would cost another N$200 million a year. To seal only 50 km of relatively high traffic gravel road as an interim measure at N$400 000 a kilometre would mean an additional N$20 million a year. Adding all these costs, he arrived at a figure of N$800 million, to which administrative costs of 10-15 percent of the operational costs would have to be added, giving the final N$900-million figure for managing the national road network.

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