Adverts run by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) in the Sunday papers to convince the public that its e-tolling system is the best and only way forward are entirely misleading and insults road users’ intelligence, says the tolls opposition lead, Wayne Duvenage.
Duvenage heads up Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) which is currently embroiled in a legal battle to prevent the project from going ahead in Gauteng.
As part of its e-toll marketing campaign, Sanral has run several adverts in South African newspapers, stating “the facts” about the highly controversial tolling system it plans to launch on Gauteng’s highways.
The adverts claim that many of the opposing views brought out against the system are false, and aims to supplant them with facts.
According to the adverts:
- From every R1 spent on e-tolls, only 17 cents goes to collection, while 83 cents goes to the maintanence of the roads and loan repayments. This is contrary to claims against Sanral that the bulk of the fees will go towards the cost of collecting them.
- Contrary to claims, the cost of goods will not rise dramatically because of the toll fees, only increasing by as little as 0.12% and 0.77%. These stats were based on data from the UCT Graduate School of Business Economic Analysis.
- Using a fuel levy as an alternative is not sustainable, as cars are becoming more fuel efficient, meaning over time fuel levies will produce declining revenues.
The adverts have set alarm bells ringing, with the Democratic Alliance as well as Outa stating that the claims do not add up.
According to Duvenage, the adverts by Sanral are completely misleading, “tantamount to poor advertising and reasoning [that] demeans the intellect of the road user”.
Duvenage says that Sanral reached the figure of 17 cents per rand (or 17%) based on the costs related to the compliant e-tag numbers – an initial calculation based on 90% of the road users being e-tagged.
“This 17% excludes the non-compliant (non-tagged and non-payment sector) from whom they hope that the extra money to cover these costs by charging the higher rates to the ‘alternate’ non-tagged category,” he said.
“But they can’t verify these numbers, because they simply don’t know.”
According to documents provided by the DA, a survey conducted by Sanral in 2009 revealed that as many as 48% of people in Gauteng would not be willing to pay for an open road tolling system – a far stretch from Sanral’s estimates of 90% compliance.
Duvenage maintains that international norms of administration costs are below double digits, with only 5% to 9% of revenue going to administration and collection costs: “so in the first place, 17% is exorbitant,” he said.
Further, Duvenage explains that the figure excludes the R6.2 billion (another 8.7%) for Violations Processing Centre (VPC) costs and R1.7 billion (or 2.4%) for other operational expenses.
“One has to ask the question, why should society be subjected to these additional costs of R20 billion for toll collection related costs, which is the capital costs of the road itself,” Duvenage said.
“These, by the way are the bare minimum – if non-compliance is high, i.e. low e-tag uptake transpires, these figures become far worse.”
Looking at Sanral’s claims that the fuel levy is unsustainable, Duvenage says that the claim is “shocking”.
“What they are implying is that if society had to use the fuel levy as a mechanism to pay for infrastructure, and cars get more efficient, it becomes more difficult to collect the required fees,” he said.
“This is futile because the fuel levy has increased substantively every year – and at the current levels of R2.13 per litre, gives rise to R44 billion per annum.”
According to the Outa head, in 2006, when the GFIP plan was mooted, had they increased the fuel levy by R0.09c per litre back then, road users would have raised the capital cost of the road itself of R17 billion, “if you add in the R5,7 billion Treasury put into the project last year,” Duvenage argued.
“We have simply wasted all this time for nothing, and their (Sanral’s) argument remains even weaker when you take this example into account.”