E-tolling hinders SA's competitive-edge

Read time 2min 50sec

The e-tolling system - soon to go live in Gauteng - will hamper SA's ability to compete globally, says Business Unity SA (Busa).

The organisation last week sent a letter to transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele to request an urgent bilateral meeting on the toll roads tariffs structure for the e-tolling system. It says the meeting will be in view of the system's widespread economic and business implications.

The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was funded via bonds and the open road tolling/e-tolling system was created as a means to repay those bonds.

Anticompetitive project

“Busa accepts the need for effective road infrastructure funding and supports the principle of a toll road system, but there needs to be proper consultation to ensure it does not exacerbate unemployment, or worsen the quality of life of poorer South Africans.”

The organisation says since Gauteng generates a third of the country's gross domestic product, it is also an issue of great national importance.

“It will raise the costs of doing business in SA even further beyond what could be considered competitive for a developing economy wanting to compete globally.”

Going up

Those who can least afford the toll structure will be hit the hardest, says Busa.

“As the South African National Roads Agency's (Sanral's) current tariffs structure proposal stands, studies show that freight transport costs could increase in excess of 20%.”

The organisation explains that this will exert significant inflationary pressure through consequential increases in the costs of basic foodstuffs.

“Commuter transport will also become more expensive, with workers already said to be spending up to 60% of their salaries on transport.”

Busa says it has been making attempts to get a clear picture of the new tariff structure and its implications for business since May last year, but with no success. “In coming to its present tariffs structure proposal, Sanral has not allowed for significant consultation with business stakeholders or the broader public.”

Controversial fees

Vehicles will be classified in terms of vehicle dimensions for the e-toll system and these will be determined by equipment on the toll gantries.

Class A2 vehicles, which are light vehicles, will be charged 66c/km and motorcycles (A1) will be charged 40c/km.

Toll points are between 5km and 14km apart (10km on average), according to Sanral. E-toll tag users will receive an automatic discount of 25%.

Xhead = Get ready

E-tolling forms part of the 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.

It 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.

“Overhead gantries will be fitted with the toll collection equipment that will recognise the electronic transponder (e-tag) in a vehicle, toll will be deducted from a user's registered e-toll account, and they will be able to travel without any disruption,” says Sanral.

Motorists can expect to start trying out the e-tolling system on Gauteng's highways from the end of March, with final implementation set to begin on 23 June.

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