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E-toll collection costs over R30bn

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Despite appealing the interdict against Gauteng e-tolling, the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) is still not ready to launch the system, says the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA).

The association on Monday filed its answering affidavit to National Treasury's leave to appeal the interdict, in the Constitutional Court.

Wayne Duvenage, OUTA's chairperson, says the organisation makes reference to a number of pertinent points in the case.

The first of these is that Sanral is still not ready to launch e-tolling, given the outstanding regulatory issues; for example, the finalisation of the exemption criteria and Sanral regulations.

"In addition, the e-toll enforcement procedures and how these relate to Aarto and the Criminal Procedures Act remain unclear. It is also noted that, just last week, on 31 May, the minister of transport withdrew the e-toll tariffs for further review."

Massive costs

OUTA adds that it has also discovered that the cost of the five-year contract between ETC and Sanral is R8.3 billion (or R1.6 billion per annum).

"Taken over 20 years, this means that the cost of collection is in fact R33.4 billion, therefore, R13.4 billion more than what is assumed in the founding affidavit filed by the minister of finance and Sanral. This means the road users will pay much more for toll collection than the road upgrade."

The association says the current legal focus by treasury on the appeal to the Constitutional Court is misplaced, as the priority should rather be to expedite the full review proceedings.

OUTA has been invited to meet with deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe as head of the inter-ministerial committee on e-tolling.

"OUTA remains adamant and concerned about the government's intentions to introduce this most wasteful and inefficient funding mechanism. Of greater concern is the civil disobedience that will arise if e-tolling is ever introduced and this is the kind of reaction we do not need, when it comes to credit and investor ratings for our country."

New alliance

Freedom Front Plus parliamentary transport spokesperson Anton Alberts says the party supports OUTA's defence of the interdict, which was granted at the end of April.

“It is of cardinal importance that the interdict is not set aside so that the court case on the review of the e-toll decision by the minister of transport can start."

The party will, in conjunction with the National Taxpayers' Union, TAU SA and the SA Federation of Caravan and Camping Clubs, under the umbrella organisation called the Tollgate Action Group, apply to join the forthcoming review case of OUTA.

Grand arrogance

Speaking at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, during the debate on the Department of Roads and Transport budget, Democratic Alliance Gauteng transport spokesperson Neil Campbell said the e-toll contract must be cancelled.

He added that, although there will be some penalties for cancellation, finance minister Pravin Gordhan has already decreased the debt by R5.75 billion, to R14.75 billion.

There is a simple three-step solution to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project funding problem, according to Campbell.

"Firstly, the national fuel levy must be ring-fenced, which will ensure that a true 'user pays' principle applies. Secondly, safe and reliable alternative public transport must be provided. Thirdly, the fuel levy will need to be increased by not more than 11c per litre. It can be collected by the five oil refiners, which will decrease the cost of collection from the estimated R13 billion to almost zero.

"The dogged determination of Cabinet to stick to an overpriced, unaffordable and hugely unpopular toll collection system reeks of arrogance of the grandest order."

Scrap tolls

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) is still in discussion with the African National Congress as to the best funding model to repay Sanral's debts and finance future road construction and improvement projects.

"One proposal under discussion is for a 14c a litre increase on the fuel levy, but only as an interim measure to repay Sanral's current debt. Longer-term alternatives are still being debated, but any outcome must be based on fairness, so that those who can afford to pay more make a bigger contribution."

The federation urges government to drop its attempt to reverse the e-toll interdict. "They must scrap the tolls, await the outcome of the ANC/Cosatu Task Team looking into alternative funding models, and implement these alternative methods as quickly as possible."

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