'Govt coercing e-toll registration'

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The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) has confirmed the e-toll cap of R550 per month only applies to light motor vehicles with e-tags and there is no cap for vehicles without e-tags.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan last month announced that government would allocate R5.8 billion to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, for which e-tolling was created. Government said, as a result of this, the toll fees could be reduced and a cap of R550 per month would apply to light motor vehicles.

The reductions and the cap, however, only apply to vehicles with e-tags and those without are left with the same tariffs that were decided on in August, where light vehicles will pay 58c/km. This comes amid several public calls by different parties for citizens to not get e-tags as a form of protest against the system.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow transport minister Ian Ollis says government is now realising that organisations are telling people to not register for e-tolling. “This is government's way of coercing people into getting e-tags and registering.”

Sanral's e-toll Web site warns that the non-payment of tolls when making use of an e-road is a criminal offence and “24-hour e-toll mobile policing vehicles will be stationed along the toll road to apprehend road users that are traffic and toll violators”.

Expensive globally

Ollis says the DA is still completely against the system and thinks an increase on the fuel levy is still a better option.

“It's the world's most expensive system for collecting fees for roads. About 35% of the income is paid as a fee to the collection company. That means about R1 billion out of R3 billion a year gets paid just as a fee and that's unbelievable. It's just ridiculous.”

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday held a nation-wide protest against e-tolling and labour broking.

The federation thanked communities and members for coming out in large numbers to support the mass action. “For us as Cosatu, this is a warning to the government and the enemy of the working class, which is capitalism, that our people are tired of these inequalities and this is a time bomb that might explode anytime if it is not attended to as soon as possible.”

It adds that e-tolling will add to the burdens of the poor; perpetuate exclusion; represent a form of privatisation; and cannot exist without a viable public transport alternative.

However, Sanral says if organisations claim to be on the side of poor road users and workers, “they should explain why they are willing to threaten the livelihood of approximately 1 200 South Africans, and their families, who would be out of a job if the e-toll system was to be scrapped”.

Not stealing

Sanral yesterday spoke out against what it calls “untruths being propagated by some political and civil organisation leaders trying to gather support for their grievances around e-tolling”.

It says leaders of various organisations have been repeatedly quoted in the media telling their members that Sanral will gain uncontrolled access to their bank accounts if they register for Gauteng e-tolling. “What these leaders know, but are not telling their members and the public, is that the credit card-linked e-toll account is not the only payment option available for Gauteng e-road users.”

The agency explains that if they do not prefer the automated credit card payment option, road users can opt for the prepaid e-toll account, which works in the same way as a prepaid cellphone account. With this option, road users are not required to provide their banking details.

E-tolling is scheduled to commence on 30 April and Sanral says “registration is still open for road users who choose to be e-toll compliant”. At the Cabinet meeting this week, government said it will continue to hold discussions with stakeholders to explain in even greater detail its position on the system.

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