E-tolling talks begin
The Department of Transport's (DOT's) steering committee on e-tolling began public consultations today.
Minister Sibusiso Ndebele appointed a steering committee to consult with the public on the controversial e-tolling project, which was met with outrage due to high toll fees and a lack of consultation on the tariff structure. Standard cars were to be charged 66c/km.
E-tolling is an open road, multi-lane toll infrastructure that allows for tolls to be charged without drivers having to stop. There are no physical booths.
The department first called for written submissions from the public on e-tolling via e-mail, post, fax and hand-delivery.
Deputy director of media relations at the DOT Sam Monareng says there have been a lot of submissions from the public.
He could not provide a figure for the number of submissions, but says the department has received “quite a substantial amount”.
“One interesting factor is that they're coming from across the board. We have submissions from individuals, political parties, business organisations... there's just such a broad spectrum.”
The department also welcomed requests from the public to do oral presentations with the steering committee. Monareng says it is mostly business organisations that have taken advantage of this opportunity.
These oral consultations were supposed to have begun on Tuesday, but the department says it wanted to give the participants a little more time after the public holiday this week and so had the first meeting today. Consultations will continue until 7 April.
Monareng adds that a lot of the submissions were via e-mail, an option the department opened up on 17 March, after complaints that only allowing written, posted submissions made the consultation process too narrow.
“More than anything, the submissions were about the fees and financial modelling. A lot of the submissions were also about alternative public transport options.”
Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng transport spokesperson Neil Campbell has submitted a document to the steering committee, which makes suggestions around the loans that were taken to improve the highway and for which e-tolling was created.
The DA has firstly called on the steering committee to disclose all financial information, including costs and profits for all involved parties, both local and overseas.
Other recommendations include that the DOT should be requested to contribute towards paying the loan and also subsidise the interest; there must be no VAT on the tolls as this equates to a tax on a tax; a bigger investment should be made in public transport over and above the Gautrain and Rea Vaya; the fuel levy should be ring-fenced so that it only funds roads; and all research done must be made publicly available and where it is deficient, further research should be done.
Campbell warns in the document that high toll fees will have a devastating economic impact in Gauteng, affecting everybody as increased transport costs will push up the cost of everything, including food.
“Alternative roads will also deteriorate as motorists avoid the toll roads, which will push up municipal rates to pay for road maintenance and repairs.
“This toll road mess was caused by poor planning. We need full information to assess the real options in this matter so that road users are penalised as little as possible,” says Campbell.
The steering committee is charged with reviewing the financial assumptions underpinning the current proposed tariff structure.
It is chaired by the DG of transport, George Mahlalela; and its core is made up of Kgaogelo Lekgoro from the premier's office; Benny Monama, head of department Gauteng; and Nazir Alli, CEO of Sanral.
The committee has two work-streams for the public consultations, with the first being the financial and tariff modelling work-stream, tasked with exploring various financial options. The second is the public transport transformation work-stream, tasked with exploring ways of improving the current public transport offering.
Live testing of the e-tolling system is expected from the end of the month, with the system's final implementation scheduled for 23 June. However, the DOT says these dates may be delayed if the need arises.