A short video was posted on social media in Kuwait on September 4, 2018 for the director of Public Authority for Roads and Transportation, in which he said that authority officials are thinking of imposing fees on the use of some roads in the country, and explained the reasons behind this action.
These comments had sparked heated debates between supporters and opponents of such an idea. Some people scoffed it off, believing that there are many streets in Kuwait which need comprehensive maintenance, while means of public transportation need to be overhauled; two issues that should be given priority ahead of applying the toll roads concept.
In 2014, the National Assembly assembly approved the establishment of the Public Authority for Roads and Transportation. The new state department was given wide powers to regulate transportation and all means of road transport; from private vehicles, bicycles, taxis, buses or other modern means of transport, to the intelligent transport system, which allows the use of modern technologies to improve the management and development of the transport system. The law also added the ‘sustainable transport’, which is a concept of transportation that is economically, socially, and environmentally safe.
The law granted the authority the right and power to consider these subjects and more. I believe that the existence of an independent roads’ authority is good, but it is necessary to consider what it can offer to the drivers and the transport system, and made developments based on studies and research that benefit the society as a whole.
One of the authority’s tasks is to look find solutions to the traffic congestion problems and find more guarantees for safety of roads in order to reduce the economic, social, environmental and security costs of accidents and accompanying deaths, injuries and material losses.
I believe that transportation in Kuwait, whether public or private, need a new way of organizing and full maintenance. For example, the increasing number of roundabouts makes the roads appear narrower for motorists, and I do not know the purpose of building them in such high number. Such roundabouts should be abolished and replaced with intersections and traffic signals. For example, try to enter the passports’ roundabout at rush hour, such as 2:00 pm, and you will find yourself in a frightening challenge.
Before thinking of placing tolls on any streets, I wish that officials would first consider the development and maintenance of current roads. I do not mean just building more pedestrian bridges, but I mean real and safe maintenance. An example of this is the absence of specific parking spaces for taxi drivers. This constitutes a danger to the street users, who face constant risks when taxi drivers stop as they wish anywhere. Some buses do the same now, as they can sometimes be seen stopping anywhere on the road without sticking to bus stops designated for their routes.
Dubai does charge fees on some roads, but the difference between Dubai and Kuwait is huge and clear. In Dubai for example, the streets continuously undergo maintenance, and you don’t have small gravels flying around and cracking vehicle windshields there!
The Deputy Chairman of the Public Authority for Roads and Transportation, Engineer Saud Al-Naqi, had a previous statement a few months ago, saying that there was no study or decision taken regarding the imposition of fees on the use of certain roads in the country.
Naqi said in a press statement that before the authority puts charges on the use of roads, the roads must first be improved to justify the reasons for imposing the tolls. He pointed out that such action requires extensive studies, in addition to making sure that several alternatives exist for toll roads.
I know that the law grants the Public Authority for Roads and Transportation the right to consider all matters relating to organizing roads, but I believe that it must be done in an acceptable and appropriate manner. I do recall the time when the price of gasoline was about to be raised. It was said at the time that it will limit the number of young people aimlessly roaming the streets, and thus reduce congestions. Well, it was a wrong idea as the congestions continue.
I believe that claims for fees are offset by services for drivers, and I hope that in exchange for such ideas, the driver will know what their rights are. I hope more studies are implemented on the status of roads before putting any ideas publicly.
By Muna Al-Fuzai