By Jude NJOKU
AFTER initial opposition by some aggrieved stakeholders which prompted the postponement of the flag-off of tolling on the Eti-Osa -Lekki Toll Road, the concessionaire of the 49.5 kilometre expressway, Messrs Lekki Concession company limited (LCC), last week announced that tolling at the first toll plaza will commence on Monday, January 3, 2011.
LCC’s managing director, Mr Oforiokuma Opuiyo at a press briefing, also announced the toll rates, discounts and incentives as well as other benefits available to motorists and road users whose vehicles have been categorised into six groups for the purposes of tolls collection.
But the announcement has elicited mixed reaction from users of the ever-busy expressway. While some hailed it as a welcome development, others felt it would make commuting more difficult for residents of Eti-Osa and its environs.
The LCC boss gave N50 as the standard tariff to be paid by motorcycles per trip while saloon cars and tricycles will pay N120. Similarly, users of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV), minibuses and pick-up trucks will cough out N150 per trip while light trucks and two axle buses and heavy trucks and buses with two or more heavy axles will pay N250 and N350 respectively per one-way trip.
Danfo operators were given special consideration; they are to pay N80. A journey to and fro the toll plaza will count as two trips.
Users of the road who wish to pay less, according to the LCC boss, should use the e-tag mode of payment.
According to him, “users who pay the tolls using either the Swiftpass or e-tag electronic payment device will enjoy a reduction off the standard toll for their class of vehicle. Swiftpass offers five percent off the standard tolls while e-tag offers 10 per cent.
Mr Opuiyo who said tolls would only be collected at the first plaza (Admiralty plaza) for now although the company has extended work to Kilometre 10, the company has also put in place what he called frequent user discount for motorists plying the road. However, only e-tag users will enjoy this benefit.
For instance, while the standard tariff for saloon cars N120, with incentives and other discounts, the toll payable could come down to N108 and even further down with the frequent user discount. Other classes of vehicles who use the e-Tag are also entitled to these discounts.
“We are encouraging motorists to use the electronic mode of payment because in addition to the built_in incentives, it enables faster access through the toll plaza. Interestingly, many bus operators have signed up to the eTag, which is also available to other motorists,” Mr. Oforiokuma said.
The LCC boss explained the criteria used in arriving at the tariffs.”The standard toll tariffs vary by vehicle class, with heavy vehicles (measured by axle-loading) paying more than lighter ones. This is because heavy vehicles impose a greater extent of wear-and-tear on the road than lighter vehicles do.
The price incentives and discounts are designed to recognize road users’ chosen method of payment (cash or electronic); the frequency with which they use the Eti-Osa Lekki Toll Road; and the special importance of commercial danfo buses as the most popular means of public transportation used along the Eti-Osa Lekki-Epe Axis.
Road users therefore need to view the toll tariffs in conjunction with the price incentives and discounts offered by LCC, in order to get a full appreciation of the implications for their particular circumstances,” he said.
Mr Opuiyo stated that based on market and other research conducted in and around the Eti-Osa Lekki-Epe axis, “LCC forecasts that road users should enjoy estimated savings of N25 or more per kilometre each time they use the Eti-Osa Lekki Toll Road,” he said.
The decision to flag off tolling on the road was hailed by s newspaper columnist, Mr Femi Orebe. Mr Orebe who stated that the expansion of the road by LCC would aid the development of the Lekki Free Trade Zone, appealed to users of the road to support the concessionaire.
But some motorists condemned the decision of the concessionaire to build three toll plazas along the expressway. They see this development as economic exploitation.