JRA backtracks on M1, M2 e-tolling

Read time 3min 30sec

E-tolling will not be implemented on the city's M1 and M2 highways, the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) has stated.

This is despite media reports quoting JRA MD Duduzile Maseko as saying the agency is in active talks with SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) about implementing the e-tolling system on those highways in the city.

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 185km of new toll infrastructure will see the N1 to Pretoria, Johannesburg ring roads and the R21 to Pretoria become electronic tolling zones.

However, controversy surrounding the e-tolling costs to motorists has halted the proposed tariffs from being implemented and these are currently under review.

The toll tariffs were initially gazetted at 66c/km for standard light motor vehicles, and R3.96/km for heavy vehicles. However, large-scale public outrage resulted in the fees being suspended and consultation processes were started by the Department of Transport.

Sanral copycat?

Speaking at the Africa Roads conference earlier this month, Maseko is quoted as saying the city has a maintenance backlog of about R1.5 billion, and needs revenue to stem the problem and ensure infrastructure does not continue to deteriorate.

Maseko was then quoted as saying the agency is considering borrowing the money in a loan solution, not unlike the arrangement that Sanral entered into. Sanral's financing agreement created the necessity for e-tolling, which is supposed to generate revenue to service the loan.

Chose Choeu, president of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI), says the chamber is gravely concerned at reports that all major roads in Gauteng will be tolled within three years and that the system will be rolled out to KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town.

“Of equal concern are reports that the Johannesburg Roads Agency is considering the imposition of tolls on the city's motorways to fund the backlog in maintenance.”

Improvement costs

The chamber also says little consideration is being given to the additional costs borne by road users that resulted from the delays and inconvenience experienced during the R20 billion Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, which Sanral financed through its loan.

“During construction on the Ben Schoeman motorway, SACCI conservatively estimated that the cost to the economy on that highway only was approximately R15 million per hour.”

The chamber says the statement by the JRA, that it intends to toll the city's motorways, is in direct conflict with the stated aims of imposing tolls, which include that tolls will only be applied to new roads or roads that have been upgraded to such an extent that they can be regarded as new; and that improvements in traffic flows must be such that the savings generated are in excess of the cost of the toll.

“SACCI opposes the introduction of tolls for maintenance purposes, as there will be no resultant overall cost benefit to transport operators, commuters and other road users. SACCI predicts that increasing the tolls on Gauteng roads, no matter what the motivation, will discourage investment in the province and with extensions to KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town in those areas as well.”

Allegations denied

However, the JRA now says it is not considering e-tolling. It says there is no chance of discussions with Sanral resulting in e-tolling, “not under the circumstances”.

The agency says partnerships will play a major role in relieving the maintenance backlog. It will also look at alternative rehabilitations, alternative forms of roads, ward-based or area revitalisation of roads, and community education to stop digging of roads and vandalism.

“Currently, JRA is working with Lead SA, in a partnership called Pothole Brigade, which is aimed at getting rid of potholes in the roads of Johannesburg.”

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