In the dust generated by e-tolls – and the massive boycott of them – some fundamental questions about infrastructure funding have been obscured.
The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) quite correctly argues that it needs money to build new roads, which are, in turn, a driver of national prosperity.
Tolls (whether collected manually or electronically) are the best way to raise the money, says Sanral.
Even if you agree with that – and ignore other, more efficient alternatives, such as fuel levies – the most unfair aspect of the whole system is that motorists continue to pay escalating annual toll fees every year … despite the fact the construction costs of some roads were paid off decades ago.
Toll charges should be lowered, not raised, once the road is built, and money raised should only cover maintenance.
Outa, which initiated the public disobedience campaign against e-tolls, argues that someone is making a huge bundle of money at the expense of taxpayers because of the endlessly escalating toll charges.
The organisation is now asking for an accounting of the money made out of tolls – how much and who it went to. We need to find out whether tolls are yet another means of milking long-suffering consumers.