The department of transport has released a new ‘draft roads policy‘ which aims to fundamentally improve South Africa’s road systems – and mentions how funds can be raised to do so.
“This Roads Policy is the first of its kind in South Africa,” said former transport minister Joe Maswanganyi in introducing the policy.
“Although a series of transport and roads strategies and plans have been developed since 1994, the management of the roads environment and it users has not been fully addressed within an overarching national policy for roads,” he said.
Citing a 2014 report, the policy notes that there is an existing road maintenance backlog of over R197 billion across the country, with road conditions expected to continue deteriorating rapidly over the coming years.
To combat this, the department said that it is looking to other revenue streams on top of existing charges to help plug the budget shortfall.
“New revenue streams that are being considered include an increase in both the fuel levy and vehicle license fees, tolling and other innovative funding measures,” the policy said.
“Policy proposals include a focus on improving the efficiencies in budget expenditure in the roads sector, and government support for the application of the user-pay principle (for example tolling, congestion charges, weight over distance charging, cross border levies etc.”
The department said it would also look at private investor funding as a means of helping plug the shortfall.
Speaking to BusinessTech in October 2017, Stephan Krygsman, professor of Logistics and Transport Economics at the University of Stellenbosch, said that a congestion tax was almost a certainty due to the increasing traffic seen in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The reason for this is simple: while South Africa’s road agencies have invested a lot of money into the country’s roads, they may have done so in the wrong places (i.e. rural and not urban), Krygsman said.
“Public transport is not a viable option for car owners – you simply cannot use public transport to get to work. Poor people live on the periphery with rich folk living even further away due to poor spatial and apartheid planning policies. This requires long travel distances with private cars resulting in congestion,” he said.
To address this continued traffic, some form of congestion tax is likely needed, as there is no technical solution to the problem, said Krygsman
“We cannot build ourselves out of congestion,” he said.
“The more capacity you provide, the more car travel you stimulate. So in the end you sit with more congestion. A congestion tax can be used to fund public transport in cities and motivate people to use more appropriate transport modes.”