E-toll tenders on ice as Sanral waits for whatever comes next

 ·3 Nov 2022

National road agency Sanral says that four of the five tenders that were cancelled earlier the year have now been awarded – but the search for a new e-toll operator has been put on hold as it seeks clarity on the future of open road tolling in the country.

The Sanral board said that four of the five tenders cancelled in June 2022 have been awarded this week, following an evaluation process by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

The following awards, worth R10.6 billion, have been made:

  1. Mtentu Bridge: R3.428 billion – to CCCC MECSA JV
  2. R56 Matatiele rehabilitation: R1.057 billion – to Down Touch Investments
  3. Ashburton Interchange: R1.814 billion – to Base Major/CSCEC JV
  4. EB Cloete Interchange Improvements: R4.302 billion – to Base Major/CSCEC JV

Chair of the Sanral board, Themba Mhambi, said that there was “understandable” concern after the contracts were cancelled in June, but there was a commitment from the group to mitigate the impact and get the projects back on track.

“That meant re-advertising, evaluating and awarding the tenders within four months after they were cancelled. We are happy that we have lived up to that commitment and, in the process, learnt valuable lessons about how to handle tenders with speed to keep the country’s economic development on the boil,” he said.

One of the tenders, relating to the open road tolling operator, has been put on hold, however, given the government’s decision to scrap the e-tolling system, Sanral said.

“In light of the recent announcement by the Minister of Finance to scrap e-tolls, a decision on the Open Road Tolling tender (TCH Operator) has been put on hold pending clarity on key issues,” the group said.

In his medium-term budget statement last week (26 October), finance minister Enoch Godongwana announced that National Treasury and the Gauteng provincial government would pay off Sanral’s e-toll debts, bringing to an end the debates around how the failed system would be handled and the money spent on it paid off.

While the minister did not outright announce that the system would be scrapped, follow-up statements from Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi and transport minister Fikile Mbalula solidified the position that the system would come to an end.

However, questions still remain about e-tolling – particularly around what the infrastructure will be used for and how the systems developed and put in place will be transformed.

The tender documents put out by Sanral around the system had some answers to this.

New tender document shows alternative plans for e-tolls – including licence renewals and a fuel reward system

According to Sanral, the Gauteng e-tolling project was not only about the tolling component but also saw the establishment of complex back-end systems, including transaction clearing, violation processing and other value-added services.

The road agency’s now-on-hold tender documents made sure that any tender winners are prepared to implement these value-added services even without open road tolling in the picture.

Broadly, these services include:

  • Enabling road users to transact using e-tags on the TCH system
  • Using the Sanral mobile app to manage accounts
  • Enforcing speed-over-distance violations
  • Assisting the South African Police Service and other enforcement agencies with crime intelligence
  • Data monetisation (using data already collected via e-tolling)
  • Account-based ticketing
  • Vehicle and driver’s licence issuing or renewal
  • Weigh-in motion enforcement on Gauteng highways (and eventually nationwide) and
  • Any other identified value-added service.

Lesufi alluded to the e-toll gantries being used as part of the province’s wider crime-fighting initiatives, while Sanral itself has pushed the idea of using the e-toll back-end systems to form a mobility account.

Headline: The final plan for e-tolls in South Africa

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