Sanral and the Department of Transport should stop using Gauteng motorists as “lab rats” for its e-tolling system, which is not a suitable method of securing funding for roads infrastructure.
These are the words of Howard Dembovsky, national chair of the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA), following further conflicting messages between government and the road agency this week.
On Friday (23 May 2014) the Minister of Transport said that “no decision has been taken to introduce the e-tolling system in KwaZulu-Natal”.
It follows media reports announcing that e-tags would be introduced in KwaZulu-Natal, leading to incorrect conclusions that this meant that e-tolls, or “Open Road Tolling” would be introduced there.
Reassurances were also extended to those in the North West province by the Minister and she reportedly said “We are currently focused on resolving some of the challenges emanating from the introduction of electronic tolling in some parts of the Gauteng province.”
“Sanral and the service provider responsible for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) should continue to focus on resolving these current challenges.”
Dembovsky noted that the introduction of e-tags to boomed lanes on traditional toll roads is not new.
“Only recently were users of e-tag enabled lanes on these routes not so politely told that their e-tags would become active on the GFIP, regardless of whether they wanted them to or not,” the JPSA head said.
“Effectively, e-tags used for dedicated, boomed lanes at traditional toll plazas have therefore become a precursor to e-tolling on what is termed ‘Open Road Tolling’ projects like the ‘some users pay principle’ on the GFIP.”
Dembovsky pointed out that the courts have been told that the ‘user pays principle’ as well as e-tolling is ‘National Government Policy’ and therefore, the courts have deemed that they may not interfere in Government policy.
“However, it is abundantly clear that – far from being national policy, government is doing everything it can to reassure road users in other provinces that they will not become victims of what has been forced on Gauteng,” he said.
“The question must be asked: why it is that Gauteng should be the only ‘lab rat’ to be abused and prejudiced by e-tolling of urban freeways,” Dembovsky said.
He said that affected parties in other provinces will be far more eager to participate in public consultations with Sanral with respect to e-tolling their urban roads.
Sanral, Dembovsky said, “lacks the capacity and willingness to listen to any voice/s other than its own.”
“At some stage or another, both Sanral and the Department of Transport are going to have to stop using Gauteng motorists as lab rats and face the fact that e-tolling is simply not suitable for our environment and that there are other, way more efficient methods of securing funding for roads infrastructure,” Dembovsky said.
He added that simply saying that the fuel levy cannot be ring-fenced is a cop-out, given the fact that the abuse of funds from the fuel levy originated in the 1970s when they were used to fund the illegal occupation of Namibia and the Angolan War.