The idiot’s guide to the open road tolling system

Gauteng motorists will be coughing up within the next five months for using the province’s highways, when the new open-road tolling system is introduced.

The Mail & Guardian has answered some frequently asked questions in its dummies’ guide to the system.

What is it?

    The open-road tolling system, also known as the e-tolling system, is an open-road, multi-lane toll infrastructure that allows for tolls to be charged without drivers having to stop as there are no physical booths.

    E-tolling forms part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).

    The toll infrastructure — which covers 185km — will see the N1 highway to Pretoria, Johannesburg ring roads and the R21 to Pretoria become electronic tolling zones.

How will the system work?

    According to the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), overhead gantries will be fitted with toll collection equipment that will recognise the electronic transponder (e-tag) in a vehicle. From here the toll will be deducted from a user’s registered e-toll account and they will be able to travel without any disruption.

    To date, there are 42 toll points on the network in the province. Vehicles driving past the gantries would be identified and charged, depending on the type and size of vehicle.

    Heavy vehicles will be charged a higher fee.

    The same charging procedure applies to motorcyclists.

    Cameras that capture the back and front licence plates of cars will be used as a method to detect cars that don’t have e-tags.

When does the open road tolling system begin?

    June 2011.

Is there a trial run before the system begins?

    Yes, there will be a trial run from April. Motorists will be given a three months to register their vehicles.

How much will it cost?

    Estimates from official sources are that e-tolling could cost the average person between R700 and R1 000 a month, if they pass two tolls, in each direction, per day.

Can I get a discount?

    If you are registered by June then you qualify for a discount, while unregistered users pay the full tariff.

    However a discount for each user will be different depending on how often they use the road, the distance they travel and the time of use.

Can I get away with not registering?

    Sanral says non-registered users cannot escape the new system. These vehicles can be identified by their registration plates as they will be photographed as they drive past the gantries. In this way their information will be obtained and an invoice will be sent to their address.

How long can I get away with not registering?

    Those with long-outstanding toll invoices will be stopped on the road and ordered to make a payment either by cash or card.

What if I refuse to cooperate?

    Should a motorist refuse to cooperate, normal debt collection procedures will be followed and if these still fail, legal action will be taken against them.

Why is this being introduced?

    The reason behind the system is to recoup the costs of upgrading the roads.

Why not build regular toll gates?

    If normal toll gates were erected on the N1, this would further slow the traffic flow.

How does this benefit me?

    Motorists will save travelling time and will be provided with free assistance in case of accidents or vehicle malfunctions. Registered e-tag users will be provided with a free medical service and towing service.

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