The e-tolling system is complete and is expected to be fully operatioal by the end of the year, says the South African parastatal responsible for the management, maintenance and development of South Africa’s national road network, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
Sanral GM of communications Vusi Mona says the delay in implementing the e-toll system, though financially costly, has enabled the testing of the system and, as a result, Sanral is ready to roll out e-tolling.
Minister of Transport Dipou Peters has published the regulations and issued a notice regarding the tariffs. Having provided 30 days for public comment, the Minister will apply her mind to the matter and publish the final tariffs. Thereafter, e-tolling will start, says Mona.
Following President Jacob Zuma’s signing of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law in September, Mona says, the agency is going ahead with the project, adding that it is “unfortunate that there have been lies, misinformation and distortion about the project owing to the politicisation of a purely infrastructural matter”.
The signing took place on the same day that the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein, in the Free State, was hearing arguments by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) to stop e-tolling in Gauteng.
Outa told the court that legislation enabled Sanral to explore options other than tolling to fund Gauteng’s freeways.
The SCA also heard that Sanral should, therefore, have kept an open mind about the matter, despite Cabinet’s approval of e-tolling.
According to Outa’s website, funding of the project would have an impact on taxpayers. The alliance also states that there is no effective and reliable public transport system, or viable alternative routes for the public to use.
Alternative models of funding, such as by the National Treasury and through fuel levies, long-distance toll roads and vehicle licence fees, are less expensive and more efficient funding processes, according to the Outa website.
Further, e-tolling has been challenged by political parties and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
Mona explains that tolling is a government policy and Sanral is the implementing age-ncy, adding that it is required to implement the policies of the government of the day, and not the wishes or ideas of civil society groups.
“We can consult civil society on how best to execute a government policy or decision, but it is not within our power to change the policy or decision,” he says.
Mona adds that the project was first conceptualised by Gauteng in 1996, which was followed in 1998 by the Gauteng Toll Road Strategy.
In 2006, the Gauteng transport intergration process, which included Sanral as a participant, produced a proposal for a Gauteng Freeway Improvement Scheme. The scheme espoused the ‘user pays’ principle based a toll scheme with an electronic recording of tolls payable.
The project had been tabled before and approved by Cabinet in 2007 with confirmation that the project would be under- taken by Sanral.
Former Transport Minister Jeff Radebe launched the project in 2008 together with Sanral CEO Nazir Alli.
Engineering News reported in September that e-tolling was suspended on April 28, 2012, pending a full review; however, the Constitutional Court set aside the interdict preventing Sanral from tolling some of Gauteng’s highways.
In December 2012, the full review on the matter was heard by the North Gauteng High Court, in Pretoria, and Outa lost the case.
South Africa is subject to high fiscal demands in terms of health, education and social grants, besides others,states
Mona, adding that “the national fiscus cannot satisfy all our needs; we need add- itional revenue streams.”
Sanral is responsible for 19 704 km of South Africa’s roads, 84% of which are funded through the fiscus.
He explains that 3 120 km of these roads are tolled, with Sanral responsible for about 1 832 km.
Further, private-sector concessionaires, such as N3 Toll Concession, Bakwena Platinum Corridor Concessionaire and the Trans African Concessions, are responsible for tolling about 1 800 km of road.
Mona emphasises that tolling is used selectively on roads that cannot sustain themselves; thereby challenging the claim that public infrastructure is being privatised.
He notes that for the e-tolling of Gauteng’s roads, a cost benefit analysis was done. The results show that, for every R1 that is spent on the road, there is a benefit of R8.40 for users.
He says there are also benefits for individuals, such as time savings, which could be put into family time or social activities.
A survey conducted indicates that 83% of light motor vehicles will, on average, be required to pay R100/m, with only 4% of vehicles reaching the cap of R450/m.He adds that stories that money will be going offshore are exaggerated. For every R1 that is paid by motorists, 83c goes towards servicing the R20-billion debt, lighting, providing on-road services and road maintainance, while 17c goes towards the cost of collecting toll fees.
He says the project has been heavily politicised and it is important that the public reprioritises the project, as Gauteng is the economic hub of South Africa and is essential to the development and building of the country.
Mona emphasises that the ‘user pays’ principle is not only part of the country’s National Development Plan but also necessary for the funding and maintenance of sustainable infrastructure.
He notes that municipalities are owed about R81-billion, R4-billion of which is owed by government, which, he admits, government must settle to set an example.
A study undertaken by economic analyst Professor Rudolf Botha shows that the highest income earning quintile in Gauteng will be responsible for more than 94% of the total fees paid and combined with the second-highest income earning quintile, the figure rises to 99%. Registered taxis and buses are exempted. “Those who have, have a responsibility to pay,” states Mona.