While it is obvious that Dr Kelvin Kemm’s information was a bit dated when he wrote his article titled ‘Sanral’s tolling soap opera’, I would like to take this opportunity to give Engineering News readers an update on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and correct some of the inaccuracies in Kemm’s article.
First is the question about toll commencement on the Gauteng e-road. Many road users probably know by now that the Gauteng e-toll commencement date of April 30, 2012, has been announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The toll tariffs (inclusive of value-added tax) for e-tag account holders were also announced by the Minister and are set out as follows: motorcycles (Class A1), 18c/km; light motor vehicles (Class A2), 30c/km; nonarticulated trucks (Class B), 75c/km; and articulated trucks (Class C), R1.50/km.
Kemm also alludes to a figure of R2 000 a month that could be paid by someone who regularly drives between Johannesburg and Pretoria. What he probably did not know when he wrote his article is that the most a light motor vehicle driver with an e-tag account can pay in tolls on the Gauteng e-road is R550 a month. This is the cap that has been put on the tolls to further minimise the impact of the toll tariffs on road users. Our calculations show that 80% of light motor vehicle users of the Gauteng e-road will pay in the region of R220 a month in toll fees. The benefits of the improved highway far outweigh the capped monthly costs which he fails to recognise.
Another misleading assertion in Kemm’s article relates to road users being fined if they have insufficient funds in their bank account to pay their toll fee. What he neglects to mention is that the credit-card-linked e-toll account is not the only payment method available on the Gauteng e-road. Road users can also register a prepaid e-toll account into which they can load funds in a similar way to a prepaid cellphone account. Toll tariffs are then deducted from this account only. The e-toll account can be topped up at an e-toll customer service outlet or through electronic funds transfer. In both cases, road users are not required to provide their banking details.
With regard to the alleged suspension of drivers’ licences if tolls are not paid, this is completely nonfactual and misleading. Road users have seven days to settle their tolls from the day the toll charges are incurred. Thereafter, debt collection and legal processes will follow.
We are pleased that Kemm acknowledges the ‘excellent engi- neering skills’ that went into imple- menting the GFIP and we hope that, after reading this update, he will realise that the project is as moral, ethical and legally sound as the engineering work that went into it. He can find comfort in knowing that this was also confirmed by two independent auditing firms during the consultations by the Ministerial Steering Committee, which was appointed to review the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) financial model and found the inputs, formulae and outputs of the Sanral revenue model to be sound.