Toll road profits unclear

South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has three 30-year Toll Road Concession Contracts in operation.

Bakwena’s N1N4 toll contract expires in 2031, and handles N1 Tshwane to Bela-Bela, N1 Tshwane to Rustenburg, and N4 Rustenburg to Botswana.

N3 Toll Concession’s (N3TC) contract expires in 2029, handling the N3 between Cedara and Heidelberg.

Trac’s N4 toll route contract expires in 2028, responsible for 571km between Hans Strijdom off-ramp in Pretoria and the Port of Maputo in Mozambique.

City Press and its sister publication Rapport investigated the finances of these operators and Sanral. Basing on figures provided by Sanral and the concession holder’s statistics, they calculated:

  • Sanral’s 41 tollgates generated R2.1-billion in 2013.
  • The concession holder’s operate 32 toll gates where the average fee is R8 more than Sanral’s.
  • If Bakwena, N3TC, and Trac collect as much money annually as Sanral, they will generate R60-billion over 30 years.
  • Bakwena said its expenses, including construction, maintenance, and loan finance, amount to between R8-billion and R10-billion over 30 years.
  • Trac said their initial N4 upgrades cost R1.3-billion in 1997. Trac annually spends around R90,000 per kilometre on maintenance of its 550km; i.e. R50-million per year.

Rapport had a difficult time getting any real financial figures out of the concession operators or Sanral.

  • Bakwena’s CEO, Graeme Blewitt, said the company’s shareholders are large investment and pension funds.
  • Trac CEO, Graham Esterhuysen said he could not disclose annual income as Trac is a private company.
  • N3TC directed Rapport’s questions to Sanral, who in turn directed queries back to the operator.

Old Mutual and Australian investment bank Macquarie own two investment funds with shares in all three concession operators. Spokespersons for the funds said they could not discuss anything due to confidentiality clauses.

It is unclear what mechanisms are in place to limit the amount that concession holders can pay to shareholders, although Sanral says there are systems in place, City Press reported.

According to Sanral’s finances:

  • In the last year Sanral spent R1-billion more on its routes than motorists contributed.
  • In the last year Sanral received a concession from the government for R5-billion, and borrowed a further R5-billion from private institutions.
  • Sanral CEO Nazir Ally received total compensation of R1.9-million in 2011/12. In 2013 he received R3-million.
  • In 2013, the combined director’s fees for the seven Sanral directors rose by R2-million.

Sanral did not respond to City Press’ questions about these increases.

City Press spoke to legal expert Professor Marinus Wiechers, who said the secrecy around tolls indicates concealment by government, and the government must “come clean”.

Source: City Press 1 December 2013

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Toll road profits unclear