Transport minister promises further engagement on tolling

There will be further discussions on the tolling system to be levied on Gauteng highways, Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele said on Monday.

“A summit will be held in March about the tolling system. There will be further engagement, not just with taxi operators, with all South Africans,” Ndebele said in Nancefield, Johannesburg.

“We need good roads throughout the country, but we have to come up with a way to finance it without placing a burden on taxi operators. Everyone will be invited to the summit.”

Taxi owners have complained that they will have to raise taxi fares to be able to afford to pay the new tolls.

Last week, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) announced the tariffs for the 185km Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

Sanral CEO Nazir Alli said motorists who purchased the e-tag system would pay 49,5 cents per kilometre.

Medium-sized vehicles with the e-tag would be charged R1,49/km and heavy-duty vehicles with an e-tag R2,97/km.

Motorists would get further discounts depending when they used the highway and whether they were frequent users.

The tolling system drew widespread criticism, with concerns over its complexity and the effect on the economy.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Gauteng said the tolling system would hit the poor and workers hard—given that workers already spent about 60% of their salaries on transport.

Provincial secretary Dumisa Dakile noted that there was no consultation with the federation or among the alliance partners on the system.

“We view such as an act in bad faith and we wish to place our position on record that Cosatu in Gauteng rejects the imposition of the tolls in the province,” he said in a statement.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) criticised the new tolling system as being far too complex to enforce.

“With the current billing chaos resulting mainly from the flawed Johannesburg computer system, not forgetting similar problems with the Ekurhuleni and Tshwane systems last year, yet another area of concern is being created with this system due to its complexity,” DA Gauteng transport spokesperson Neil Campbell said in a statement.

“Taxes are meant to be transparent and simple to understand, and a toll is just another tax.
This one, however, is so complicated that mistakes are bound to creep in,” he said.

‘It will become part of life’
The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) accused Sanral of being “dishonest” with the public about the tariffs.

At first it had said that the cost would be 50c/km, but eventually announced a cost of 66c/km.

“The Gauteng open toll-gate tariff system is nothing other than an added tax,” FF+ parliamentary spokesperson Anton Alberts said in a statement.

He said the taxes on petrol should be used to cover the costs of road maintenance and upgrading.

Alli on Monday in a brief telephonic interview said the agency was merely implementing government policy.

He appealed to road users to take the benefits of the system into account. He said research showed that travelling on a good road reduced spending on the wear and tear of one’s vehicle by a large percentage.

An awareness and education campaign was also under way to help people become accustomed to the system.

“My view is very simple. That [it’s too complex] is what people say about any new technology that comes out. When people get used to the technology, it will become part of life,” he said.—Sapa

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