Yadhana Jadoo
Political Editor
3 minute read
9 Sep 2014
12:47 pm

Benefits of e-tolls being ignored – Sanral

Yadhana Jadoo

The SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral), who will not be presenting its case to a panel of experts on e-tolls, has instead moved to highlight the “key benefits” of the controversial user pays system.

Anti E-Toll activists, who prefer not to be named, hang signs above the R24 highway in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, 01 July 2014, in protest over the controversial tolling system. Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced during the State of the Provence Address that he would be setting up a panel to review the tolling system. Picture: Alaister Russell

But many organisations against e-tolls have previously challenged these “beneficial” reasons to e-toll.

There were many key benefits of the system which are being ignored in the current debate about e-tolling, its spokesperson Vusi Mona said on Tuesday.

“As Sanral we have research which shows that the Gauteng highway network is beneficial for motorists.

“There are cost saving, technological and fiscal benefits which led us to believe that tolling remains the best and most sustainable way to pay for the upgrading and maintenance of this national road,” he said.

It was “regrettable” that the current dispute around the system has halted further upgrades on the network which will eventually “negate these benefits”.

Sanral did not want to be “scaremongers” but traffic volumes were again building up, he said.

“…And we (are) fast approaching unsustainable congestion levels which will cost the Gauteng economy.”

He said previous studies conducted by the Automobile Association (AA) and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) pointed to this.

A panel of experts has been appointed by Gauteng Premier David Makhura to look at the socio-economic impacts of the system.

Amongst the many organisations who presented to the panel– including trade union federation Cosatu, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, Black Business Council and Justice Project SA – just one spoke in favour of e-tolls.

This was the Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA). 

Most organisations , including the AA, favour the fuel levy as a means to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) of which e-tolls is used to pay.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura sits for a photo opportunity with the members of the Gauteng panel on the socio-economic impact of e-tolls during its first meeting 17 July 2014 at Emoyeni Conference Centre, Parktown.  Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Gauteng Premier David Makhura sits for a photo opportunity with the members of the Gauteng panel on the socio-economic impact of e-tolls during its first meeting 17 July 2014 at Emoyeni Conference Centre, Parktown. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

What are the benefits according to Sanral? 

An Intelligent Transport System (ITS) increases road safety, decreases congestion and travel times, which results in benefit for cost saving for companies and individuals, “who are now able to spend more time at work as opposed to on the road” said Mona.

The Black Management Forum has previously stated that e-tolls punished citizens, through double taxation.  If resources had been properly used, the upgrade could have occurred without the need for e-tolls – which contributed to the cost of living for consumers, it said.

Sacci itself  previously said it remained opposed to e-tolls because of the high collection costs and the overall burden the tolls will have on the economy. It did however urge its members to “abide by the law”.

MORE: 8 things needed to make e-tolls work – Outa

Sanral CEO Nazir Alli once stated that: ““If you do calculations in terms of the loss of production, the wear and tear to your car, vehicle operation costs which increase, the pollution we were creating… Once you take that into account the benefits far outweigh the tariffs.”

Civil rights group AfriForum stated at the first announcement of e-toll tariffs in 2011 that motorists would become “cash cows” through e-tolls.

But Mona said that:  “The user‐pay principle represents a fair and precise way of paying for transportation facilities.”

“In addition to this the ITS makes for constant monitoring of road conditions, traffic flows and motorists’ behaviour and rapid reaction when something does happen on the highways,” he added.

“It incorporates a traffic management system, which means there is pre-planning as to how to react when there is an incident on any of these roads and when there is one, a set of coordinated activities kick in so as to minimise the direct and secondary effects of the incident and to restore the flow of traffic to normal conditions.”