Outa resumes call for scrapping of e-tolls

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The e-toll advisory panel's report contains many contradictions, says Outa.
The e-toll advisory panel's report contains many contradictions, says Outa.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) is calling louder than ever for the scrapping of e-tolling, saying hard politics must be at play for government to continue hanging on to e-tolls in Gauteng.

This comes after the e-toll advisory panel's report was released to the public by Gauteng premier David Makhura, which noted the system places a financial burden on low- and middle-income households, as well as being administratively burdensome.

The panel primarily recommends the current e-toll system be reviewed to address the questions of affordability, equity, fairness, administrative simplicity and sustainability. In total, the panel made more than 50 recommendations that address the socio-economic impact of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and e-tolls, including issues of public transport infrastructure, environmental sustainability and spatial integration of the Gauteng province.

Among these recommendations is that a hybrid funding model should be adopted for the project, to replace the user-pay principle that is currently in place. This, the panel envisages, would include a contribution by motorists, as well as other additional sources of revenue, such as contributions from government.

However, Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage is not convinced by the report, saying the document contains numerous contradictions. "While the report recognises the unjustness of the e-toll system, the political issues that surround it, as well as the frustration and discontent felt by the people, it also notes that people have no right to embark on a civil disobedience campaign.

"It almost seems as if they [the panel] seem to have misunderstood the point of a civil disobedience campaign and have failed to recognise it as citizen's right. We are frustrated that they have misconstrued the role of civil disobedience."

Duvenage also takes issue with the fact that the panel admits the system is wrong, yet advocates for it to remain in place. "After all the publicity and communication that was done by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), the public has still not bought into e-tolls. But it's too late now - the horse has bolted and they are trying to chase after it."

He says a fundamental flaw in the panel's recommendations is that the hybrid funding model suggests 50% of tolls be collected from motorists and the remaining 50% be sourced from other revenue streams. "However, it also says the e-tag rates of 27c per kilometre [for light motor vehicles] are to be raised by 100%, to 55c per kilometre. So, in fact, 100% of the funding would be sourced from motorists anyway.

"We don't know whether this is devious or just plain ignorance, but it is a major flaw. Besides, you can also not have a situation where 'half tolling' is done. Either get all the money from e-tolling, or scrap the system."

Duvenage adds Outa is piecing together a larger and more comprehensive response to the report in the next week or two.

Makhura last week said government will determine the future of e-tolling before the end of February. This process is being led by deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, and will explore all the e-toll advisory panel's recommendations and their full implications, including the best funding model for the GFIP.

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