Ndebele: ‘Key lesson’ learnt from e-tolling

The government will, in future, proceed more carefully with the introduction of e-tolling, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Tuesday.

Public reaction to phase one of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) had taught it a “key lesson” when it came to procedure and public participation, he told reporters in Cape Town.

“One of the key lessons we’ve learned … is that never again will we have a situation where a city or province takes a decision that has monumental national consequences, and is taken only by a city or a province.

“In future, we will consider very carefully, and discuss and accept the implications of any decision of that kind.”

Although tolling on national roads was well understood, the GFIP was the first of its kind in an urban centre.

“It’s the first of its kind, and we have learned some quite serious lessons.”

‘New dialogue’
Ndebele said a “new dialogue” was needed on how to proceed with this type of tolling in future.

It was in this context that phase two of the GFIP had been halted until such a discussion had been held.

“Or Winelands [Toll Road Project] in Cape Town. We say whoa, lets discuss, and then we’ll proceed.”

In the future, the government needed to make itself clear.

“Meaning that the public participation and endorsement — everybody must know the implications of the demand,” Ndebele said.

“I am sure we are going to proceed with … phase two, but it must have this element of everyone understanding the implications … as motorists and users of that road.”

During his 2012 budget speech in Parliament, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced the tolling fees would be introduced to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project on April 30.

Despite government’s attempts to lighten the load on commuters by granting South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) a once-off payment R5.75-billion to fund the project, opposition remains steadfast.

Strong opposition
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) last week rejected government’s plans to implement tolling fees on Gauteng’s freeways.

The R20-billion Sanral project saw 185 kilometres of Gauteng’s road network being upgraded with a view to reducing congestion on the province’s M1 and N1 highways.

The system will see the Gauteng road users billed electronically when using the province’s N1 highway.

The tolling requires commuters to fit an e-tag which will monitor each time they pass a specific gantry on the highway and be charged accordingly. Vehicles without an e-tag will have their licence plates monitored and billed for their journeys.

Cosatu has called on drivers to simply ignore the tolling system for the moment until government rethinks its strategy on the matter. It has also called for protest action on March 7 in support of a ban on labour brokering and the scrapping of the e-toll sytem.

The DA also warned the introduction of the fees at a reduced rate may only be temporary.

The reduced fees will see cars with e-tags pay 30c per km, motorcycles charged 20c per km, while non-articulated trucks pay 75c per km and articulated trucks will be charged R1.51 per km.

There will also be a frequent-user cap of R550 a month for light vehicles and motorcyles, as well as a “time-of-day” saving of 20% for heavy vehicles.

As part of the new terms of implementation, taxis and other public transport operators will be exempt from paying fees. — Sapa, M&G Reporter

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