The City’s advocate Geoff Budlender argued on Wednesday that the decision makers, both the transport minister and Sanral, had not considered “key issues”.
Budlender told the court the financial viability of the project was not considered and “you’d think that would be the heart of it”.
He said the affordability of toll tariffs, the impact of traffic diversions and the impact on poor people living alongside the N1 and N2 were also never considered.
Budlender contended that the only way Sanral could avoid a “financial catastrophe” would be to set the toll tarrif at 74c a km, almost three times what Gauteng toll road users must pay.
But, in court papers, Sanral hit back and said the purpose of the City’s application was political.
The papers assert that while the City agreed that upgrades to South Africa’s road network were necessary, “the City’s objection is to the use of tolling as the financing mechanism for the upgrades”.
Sanral argued that the City “wants the benefits of enhancement to highways, without assuming the cost” and that it asked the court “that these upgrades not be paid for in the manner chosen by Sanral”.
Court papers also point out that the City had not offered to contribute to upgrading costs.
If the court were to agree with the City, it would render “invalid and stillborn everything that has been undertaken and achieved over the last twelve years and more”, Sanral argued.
Sanral said that the project would be set back by ten years, and the prospect of road upgrades in the next ten to fifteen years would be remote.
Court papers also stated that the “estimated funding requirement to sustain the SA road network is R65,8 billion a year”.
Sanral contended that “at present the backlog on South Africa’s road network has reached R197 billion, up from R149 billion in 2010 for the strengthening and re-gravelling of more than 202,000 kms of road in poor or very poor condition”.
Taking into account the backlog, a cost of R89 billion per annum is needed.
Sanral said fuel levies had never been an option either as the proceeds “are received by National Treasury, form part of the national budget and are allocated to organs of state in accordance with parliamentary appropriations”.
In 2008, Sanral CEO Nazir Alli submitted an application to the transport minister to declare the N1 and N2 highways as toll roads, which was then done.
But, the City is arguing that this decision should be set aside as the Sanral board did not make the decision as there were no minutes or documentation to reflect this.
Instead, it inferred that Alli took that decision on his own, in violation of the Sanral Act.
The case is being heard by Judge Ashley Binns-Ward and has been set down for the rest of this week.