E-tolls ‘not only option’

FILE PICTURE: The Loerie e-toll gantry that crosses the N12 toll road and the R24 Picture: Neil McCartney

There’s no “shame” in admitting that e-tolling is a mistake, Justice Project SA (JPSA) says – but seeking to criminalise motorists who can’t afford to pay up is disgraceful.

“[Yet] this is exactly what Sanral (the SA National Roads Agency Ltd) and the Gauteng and national governments intend doing in the very near future,” JPSA chairperson Howard Dembovsky told The Citizen.

Sanral’s use of so-called e-toll trucks, which can identify vehicles without e-tags, was “a precursor” to enforcement, he said.

Dembovsky was reacting to a report in the Sunday Independent in which transport MEC Ismail Vadi noted that there was still dissatisfaction with the “funding model”.

“We have had long discussions in the ANC Gauteng and in government. Phase one is done and we are working towards settling the debt. There is still dissatisfaction with the funding model. We are taking a second look at the matter,” he said.

Vadi claimed that e-tolls were still a “valid option”.

But he added the discussions had included consideration of a provincial fuel levy, a provincial tax and “shadow tolling” – a system by which government pays a private contractor for public use of its roads.

Dembovsky said these options had been “categorically rejected”. During consultations in 2012, for instance, the National Treasury had indicated that the fuel levy could not be ring fenced.

“They are now acknowledging that they … lied to the public, [and] took no heed of any of the alternative funding models that were put to them,” he said.

“No-one is denying that the roads on the GFIP are ‘fantastic highways’. But we must bear in mind that the vehicle population of the entire country as at 31 December 1970 was 2 121 227 (motorised and trailers).

“As at 31 December 2013, Gauteng alone had 3 087 711 vehicles while South Africa’s vehicle population had grown by almost 9 million (8 851 574) to 10 972 801. What kind of fool would have believed that no upgrades would be necessary over the 43 years since the William Nicol on/off-ramp was constructed?”

Suddenly appearing to heed motorists’ dissatisfaction with e-tolling was “a complete contradiction and … utter hogwash”, said Dembovsky.

“If the Gauteng and National Government gave two hoots about how motorists felt, they would not continue to attempt to plunge Gauteng into a recession by making it ridiculously expensive to get around.”

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