Sanral weighs up legal options after losing e-tolls case

FILE PICTURE: Protesters carry a white casket outside Sanral offices in Pretoria, 18 October 2014, with the words

FILE PICTURE: Protesters carry a white casket outside Sanral offices in Pretoria, 18 October 2014, with the words "RIP E-Tolls" written on it. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The South African National Roads Agengy (Sanral) has been left to contemplate its legal options in the wake of losing its fight to proceed with tolling in the Western Cape.

Earlier on Wednesday, Western Cape High Court Judge Ashley Binns-Ward ruled in favour of the City of Cape Town, effectively scrapping the Winelands Toll Project.

In his judgement, the transport minister’s 2008 decision declaring the N1 and N2 as toll roads was set aside, along with Sanral’s attempts to have portions of the roads tolled.

The project, as it stands, has been rendered null and void. If Sanral decides that they would like to once again continue to implement it, it will have to be a process run from scratch.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said he was pleased “that environmental authorisations regarding the implementation of the project were upheld” but was disappointed that the court had set aside the decisions “concerning the procedure of the declaration to toll.”

Mona said Sanral would review all of its legal options.

In a statement, he said he believed the City’s real complaint with the project was “about tolling as a funding choice”.

Sanral had argued that tolling was a necessary funding mechanism for much needed upgrades of South Africa’s national roads.

The project has been in the making for more than ten years and Wednesday’s decision, as argued in Sanral’s court papers, have now rendered it “stillborn”.

Mona said the project, meant to improve the link between the Western Cape and the rest of the country, may never be realised.

“These include safety benefits to road users and the economic benefits to South Africa and the region. It will also prevent the direct and indirect creation of some 5000 jobs per annum for the duration of the thirty year concession period.”

He said upgrades to roads for the next 20 years, if at all, will not be forthcoming if the project is not allowed to proceed.

But, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the court’s decision was a “victory for all South Africans”.

She said that if the project does start over, this time there will need to be “proper public consultation”.

The City’s Brett Herron called the judgement “a resounding victory for the residents of Cape Town and the Western Cape”.

He said the ruling had significant consequences “given the current economic climate where our residents, and in particular the poor, are already struggling to make ends meet.”

He further added that the ruling was a vindication of the “City’s belief that the process undertaken by Sanral to declare portions of the N1 and N2 as toll roads was improper and unlawful”.

One of the City’s main stumbling blocks had been the issue of delay, as it had taken almost four years to file its application, but Herron said he was relieved that the court had ruled that the interests of the public had outweighed this.

Costs will be dealt with at a later stage, “once the City and Sanral have agreed on how the costs should be proportioned”.

 

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