Maputo — Maputo-Sul, the Mozambican public company managing the suspension bridge over the bay of Maputo, which is now nearing completion, pledged on Wednesday that the tolls charged for vehicles to use the bridge will be lower than the charges currently levied by the ferries that carry vehicles across the bay, from central Maputo to the outlying district of Katembe.
The current charges for using the ferry are 250 meticais (4.2 US dollars) for a light vehicle, weighing up to a tonne, on weekdays and 300 meticais at weekends. Cargo and passenger vehicles with a gross weight of up to 3.5 tonnes pay 400 and 450 meticais. Heavier vehicles pay up to 1,100 meticais. For motorbikes the charges are 35 meticais on weekdays and 40 meticais at weekends, while for bicycles the charges are 15 and 20 meticais.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, the chairperson of Maputo-Sul, Silva Magaia, denied rumours that the tolls on the bridge will be the same as the ferry charges.
"This isn't true", he said. "These tolls will not be heavy for the users. The government is making its analysis on the basis that that the tolls must be socially tolerable, that using the bridge does not worsen the expenses incurred who have to use this means of crossing the bay".
No decision on the tolls has yet been announced. Magaia said the Ministries of Transport and Finance, which supervise Maputo-Sul, are analysing the data, and will announce their decision in due time.
Since the bridge is expected to open to traffic by the end of October (almost a year behind schedule) , the two ministries do not have much time to make up their minds.
The bridge is linked to 187 kilometres of road, linking Maputo to the resort of Ponta de Ouro and the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal. There are expected to be three toll gates along this road. The tolls charged along the road will depend on the distances between the toll gates.
The Maputo-Katembe bridge will eliminate the long waits and the queues that motorists currently have to endure to catch the ferry. The ferry service is regarded as both expensive and unreliable.
Once the bridge is open, the time taken to cross the bay by people who live in Katembe but work or study in Maputo will be drastically reduced. The bridge, Magaia said, will provide safety and comfort, and will allow vehicles to make the crossing at any time of day and night, unlike the ferry service.
"There will be no comparison between the quality of the service that will be provided by the bridge and the tolls that will be charged", said Magaia.