Sanral not ready to launch e-tolls

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) believes that the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) is not nearly ready to launch the Gauteng e-tolling system as it has claimed.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) also chimed in on the readiness of the project, claiming that its legality was far from being finalised.

Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said in a statement on Thursday (11 April) that the tolling system will begin in the next two months.

“What we are now waiting for is the completion of the parliamentary process, half of which is already done,” Mona said.

“Sanral’s assumption that the ‘E-tolling bill’ – the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill – will be finalised within two months is not only incorrect, but demonstrates their stubborn determination to rush ahead with this problematic piece of legislation, despite public opinion being strongly against it,” said Elza van Lingen, DA Leader in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The DA said it will oppose this Bill in the NCOP and do everything possible to ensure that it is rejected. “This Bill will create the world’s most expensive toll collection system, hurt poor South Africans, undermine economic growth and ultimately result in job losses,” van Lingen said.

Outa, meanwhile, said it is not surprised or fazed by Sanral’s announcement.

“We’ve heard it all before,” said Wayne Duvenage, chairperson of Outa. “It has been seven months since the Constitutional Court set aside the initial interdict to allow Sanral to start tolling, something they claimed they could and would do within two weeks of a ruling in their favour, citing the urgent need to generate revenue and the negative impact the delay was having on their credit ratings.”

Outa maintains that Sanral have never been ready to launch e-tolling to this day, which is some two years after the initial launch date announcement for April 2011. “We wonder what the real reasons are that is taking them so long,” Duvenage said.

He urged people not to be fooled by Sanral’s claims of 78% of the average motorists paying below R100 per month. “Averages can be very deceiving. The daily commuter travelling between Tshwane and Johannesburg, or East and West Rand will be paying well over R300 per month,” Outa’s lead said.

Duvenage said he also expects Sanral to announce lower e-toll tariffs and reduced maximum monthly limits, along with other initiatives to entice Gauteng road users to get tagged and buy into the plan to tax motorists for the use of freeways.

“The issue here is the exorbitant and unnecessary collection cost, which is anything between R1.5 billion and R1.7 billion per annum, following the ETC contract awarded at R8.4 billion for the first five years to operate the collection system. The public also knows that the tariffs of today are not necessarily the tariffs of tomorrow,” Duvenage said.

Outa said it is also very wrong for Sanral to state that its legal challenge to halt e-tolling is of no consequence.  Duvenage noted that the Constitutional Court ruling in September 2012 was related only to the temporary interdict and was outside the result of the review, which will now be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein during the latter part of the year.

“When one contemplates the gross neglect of the public engagement process required by our constitution, combined with the irrationality and inefficiency of their plan, we remain adamant that our case remains strong and very defendable in court,” Duvenage said.

Outa said that Sanral’s claim that there have been 600,000 tags signed up is misleading, as most of these have been handed out to the fleet management and government fleet organisations.

“We estimate that less than 60,000 of Gauteng’s 3.5 million motorists have purchased an e-tag. The public engagement sessions held in November last year also sent a clear message of rejection to the authorities on their e-toll plans. Our enquiries about tag sales at some of their customer sales centres, has revealed dismal sales of less than a handful of tags a week,” Duvenage said.

More on Sanral e-Tolling

E-tolls starting soon: Sanral

OUTA appeals e-toll ruling

Outa mulls over e-tolls appeal

E-tolls will go ahead: High Court

E-toll case heads to court

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Sanral not ready to launch e-tolls