E-toll tariff cut?

Read time 4min 50sec

The steering committee appointed to look into the controversial Gauteng e-tolling system has recommended reduced tariffs in its stakeholder engagement report, following public consultations.

It recommends that motorists with e-tags should pay a suggested tariff of 40c/km for light vehicles, while commuter taxis would pay about 11c/km.

E-tolling forms part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP). The 185km of new toll infrastructure will see the N1 to Pretoria, Johannesburg ring roads and the R21 to Pretoria become electronic tolling zones.

Speaking at the final stakeholder consultation meeting on toll tariffs today, transport DG and chairperson of the steering committee George Mahlalela reiterated that no final decision has been made on the tariffs.

The committee's recommendations will now be submitted to the ministers of transport and finance, as well as the premier of Gauteng, for their review and final pronouncement.

“The process will then be steered by transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele through National Cabinet, with the same process followed in the Gauteng Cabinet. The outcome of the decision will be announced by the minister in due course,” says the Department of Transport (DOT).

The purpose of the stakeholder meeting today was to provide feedback to stakeholders regarding the issues they had raised during the consultations.

“We have listened to and taken onboard what stakeholders said, and now we are in a position to make our recommendations,” said Mahlalela.

He added that the principle of tolling was accepted at the outset and the matter under review was the proposed tariff of 66c/km, initially suggested as the charge for a standard light vehicle without an e-tag account.

Slight trim

The steering committee's recommended tariffs that will be forwarded to the minister and the premier include a decrease from 30c/km to 24c/km for motorcycles (class A1) and 49.5c/km to 40c/km for light vehicles (class A2).

For medium vehicles (class B), the proposed toll tariff fee is down to R1/km, from R1.49/km, for large vehicles (Class C) from R2.97/km to R2/km, taxis will be 11c/km, from 16.5c/km, while commuter busses (Class B), will come down to 36.3c/km, from 50c/km.

These rates are all based on a vehicle having an e-tag account and an e-tag on its windscreen.

There will be two sets of tariff structures. One set is the vehicle licence number (VLN) tariff, where an account is registered for e-tolling, but no e-tag is fitted on the relevant vehicle.

Pictures are then taken of the front and back licence plates by the gantry equipment to charge the relevant account.

The VLN tariff does not qualify for all applicable discounts and pays additional administration fees.

The other set is the e-toll tag tariff. Vehicles will be classified in terms of vehicle dimensions, determined from equipment on the toll gantry.

Alex van Niekerk, GFIP senior project manager at SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), said it has been proposed that the fee of 66c/km for class A2 vehicles without e-tags be reduced to 58c/km. The suggested tariff for heavy vehicles without e-tags is R2.90, down from R3.95.

He added that the discounts initially announced for the e-tolling system, still stand. The time of day discounts are exactly the same, but the frequent user discounts have been adjusted.

Public focus

“These recommended reduced tariffs are possible due to the reallocation of costs, restructuring of debt, as well as the restructuring of the discount regime and revising the ratios of light to medium to heavy vehicles,” said Mahlalela.

He added government will take on some of the costs now, including enforcement costs, which will go toward ensuring compliance with the system and following up non-payment.

“The GFIP is not funded through the central fiscus. Funds are raised on the capital markets through Sanral's domestic medium-term note programme. The user-pay principle (tolling) is used to re-pay the loans, as well as for future operation and maintenance of these roads.”

Van Niekerk said the current debt that e-tolling was established to pay off, will be completed over 20 years, at which point a major rehabilitation of the road network will be looked at, incurring debt again.

For this reason, e-tolling fees will always go towards road maintenance.

“Another critical part of the steering committee's report addresses the fact that the department has also identified public transport for greater investment in terms of the provincial and national fiscus. Programmes have already been identified for consideration,” said Mahlalela.

Controversy 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 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.

This led to the suspension of the fees and the establishment of a steering committee by Ndebele to host public consultations on the matter.

The committee was initially supposed to have a report ready by the end of April. This report will now only be finalised after today's meeting. The DOT previously said the minister will make a decision on the matter by the end of July, after he studies the finalised report.

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

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