E-tolling here to stay

No recommendations on e-tolling have been put forward by the steering committee that was formed to consider the situation, despite drawn out public consultations on the matter.

This has led to suggestions from stakeholders that the gazetted e-toll fee of 66c/km for standard light motor vehicles, and R3.96/km for heavy vehicles will stand as is.

Transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele formed a steering committee on e-tolling to host public consultations around the issue, especially with regards to the gazetted toll tariffs that received widespread rejection for being too high.

The committee was initially supposed to have finalised the report and should have met with the stakeholders in a final meeting during April. However, after several delays, the report has been sent to stakeholders and the meeting will now take place on 30 June.

Report rejected

Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng transport spokesperson Neil Campbell says the report is biased and ambiguous, and so the official opposition party rejects it.

“It was a huge report, but reduced every argument by stakeholders to about five or six points.” He added that those points were elaborated on only to explain why they are not legitimate arguments or where they may fall short.

Campbell says, for example, this happened with the argument that the money from the fuel levy should be ring-fenced for road construction and maintenance.

“In the report, they say they can't ring-fence the money, but they do it for the Road Accident Fund, so it's very ambiguous. They say they can't do it, but they can. They just don't want to.”

Tariff stands

“Right at the end of the report is a recommendations section and it's blank. They [the steering committee] have just made no recommendations at all.”

Campbell adds that the Department of Transport (DOT) has not yet committed to any figures with regards to toll tariffs. “However, if you read between the lines, they won't change the figure, because they've already committed to it.”

Media reports have further said the e-toll report defends the initial gazetted fees that raised so many negative reactions.

“It appears the rejection of arguments by various organisations will lead to little reduction, if any, on the outrageous proposed 66c per kilometre toll rate. We are paying the price of very poor planning by the Gauteng Roads and Transport Department,” says Campbell.

E-tolling stays

However, the DOT says no decision on the toll fees has as yet been made.

“We wish to re-iterate that no decision has been made on the Gauteng toll tariffs. It was made clear right at the outset that the principle of tolling has been accepted, and that the matter under review is the proposed tariff of 66c/km,” says DOT director-general and chairperson of the steering committee George Mahlalela.

He adds that the tariffs will be announced by Ndebele after he studies the final recommendations of the steering committee following the final stakeholder meeting. The DOT previously said a decision will be made at the end of July.

“South Africans can rest assured that government is doing everything possible to resolve this matter in a manner that will be in the best interest of the commuter, road user and the state for future development and management of road infrastructure in the whole country,” says Mahlalela.

Project suspended

The e-tolling project is an open road, multilane toll infrastructure that allows tolls to be charged without drivers having to stop. There are no physical booths.

The controversial system would have been implemented last week, but the initial proposed fees of 66c/km for standard light motor vehicles, and R3.96/km for heavy vehicles were considered to be too high by several parties.

The estimated monthly revenue from e-tolling, based on current traffic flow and the proposed fees, is R300 million per month. Live testing of the e-tolling system has already begun.

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