Civil action and anti-e-toll group Outa has sounded the death knell of Gauteng’s e-tolls after the province’s premier David Makhura conceded that the system was simply not working, and that he would approach newly elected president Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss solutions.
Makhura made the comments in his state of the province address, which was delivered on Monday.
Speaking to on the modernisation of the province’s public transport, including promises to roll out the BRT system, expand the Gautrain, and integrate the taxi industry into the mainstream transport system, Makhura admitted that e-tolls were still an issue.
“We all know that the e-tolls have added to the cost of living for many motorists and public transport users in Gauteng. The new dawn (leadership change) must also bring a solution to the protracted and unresolved problem of e-tolls,” Makhura said.
“It is loud and clear for all to see that e-tolls have not worked. Accordingly, I will engage President Ramaphosa to find a new and more equitable funding model to support the continued expansion of Gauteng’s road network and public transport system.”
Outa, which has led the charge against e-tolls since their inception, welcomed Makhura’s comments, calling it the ‘death of e-tolls‘.
“Outa agrees with the Premier and his call for a new and more equitable funding model to expand Gauteng’s road network, and welcomes his promise to engage President Cyril Ramaphosa,” the group said.
Outa said that the compliance rate for e-tolls users, based on Sanral’s own version in its 2017 Annual Report, is 29%, “so it is clear that this system has failed”.
“Sanral could not in more than four years ensure a higher compliance rate,” it said.
Outa said that it is preparing a submission for the Minister of Transport and the President and will further engage with the executive to show the negative impact e-tolls have had on the public and on the Sanral budget – and to propose alternative funding models.
“The collection costs and litigation costs are too high when measured against the revenue generated by e-tolls. Sanral will never be able to catch up on collecting outstanding e-toll fees and, with compliance of only 29%, it is losing millions of rand every day,” the group said.
“Gauteng motorists showed the government that they are not willing to fund a scheme that was doomed from the start and that was introduced without sufficient public participation.”
Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi told parliament on November 2017 that there were no plans to scrap the widely rejected e-toll system in Gauteng – nor was there any intent to write off over R9.2 billion in debt which is reportedly already accrued by motorists not paying their bills.
In its 2017 financial report, Sanral reported material impairments for tolling, which amounted to R3.75 billion in the year.
This was recognising the decrease in estimated future cash flows from trade and other receivables (ie, tolling), it said. A total of R3.61 billion – the bulk of the impairment – related to the impairment of e-toll debtors directly.
The report showed that Sanral was sitting with R9.2 billion in unpaid bills at the time, with the amount growing by R230 million every month.
In contrast, only R65 million was being collected in e-tolls every month, and there were only 1.4 million road users who were tagged and paying.
Sanral itself admitted that the viability of the e-toll system “did not look good” at the reported numbers and trends, while Maswanganyi noted that the government was looking at other funding models.