Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage says that, in the same way that Gauteng’s urban freeways were declared ‘payways’ by stealth, Sanral is trying to introduce e-tolling to existing toll roads in the KZN and Western Cape by the same tactic.
Last month, the road agency dismissed reports that it will implement electronic tolling in Cape Town, as it has in Gauteng; however, it said that the e-tolling system is a possible future consideration, dependent on traffic volumes.
“There will be conventional toll plazas along the N1 and N2. The electronic or automated method of payment, is a possible future consideration dependant on traffic volumes,” it said.
Duvenage said that, while the e-toll system in Gauteng “nears the end of its very short life”, Sanral’s assurances are not trusted.
He said that the looming reality of the FIFA World Cup in 2010 was used to mask the e-toll declaration, as the authorities sneaked the scheme into being without society noticing.
“There is no doubt that Sanral’s failed implementation of the e-toll scheme in Gauteng has put paid to the future of free-flowing e-tolling schemes, minus booms, in the rest of the country,” he said.
However, according to Duvenage, this has not deterred Sanral’s revised plan to roll out electronic tolling systems at all ‘boom-down’ traditional toll plazas throughout the country, the likes of which will be pushed closer and deeper into urban environments.
The trick up Sanral’s sleeve, the activist said, is to drive the uptake of e-tags by other means.
“Just as toll plaza erections in peripheral urban zones have taken root at the Stormvoel off-ramp (Pretoria) on the Bakwena route, so Sanral will attempt to use the same strategy to fund urban freeway upgrades in and around other urban areas of the country,” Duvenage said.
“The Western Cape toll-road project is next on their radar screen, if indeed they are allowed to get away with their secretive ‘unsolicited bid’ tactics employed there,” he said.
According to Duvenage, initially, the new peripheral urban toll plazas will have a couple of e-tag lanes – as is the case at the Stormvoel toll plaza – and the congestion created at the cash/pay booths will have the ‘push-effect’ to coerce motorists to tag up for the ‘open’ lanes.
“As e-tag penetration increases, so more e-tag lanes will be opened up, edging Sanral toward a sizable e-tag ratio, thus enabling opportunities to slip the e-tag scheme into more surrounding urban areas. A very clever and rather sneaky tactic indeed – and what’s more, the public won’t even notice this happening over time,” Outa’s lead said.
Duvenage questioned why Sanral was accepting ‘unsolicited bids’ to upgrade urban freeway routes, when these urban roads should be developed and maintained through pre-planned projects and funds provided by treasury’s tax receipts.
The Gauteng Premier set up a panel tasked with inviting proposals and submissions from Gauteng residents on proposed solutions to e-tolling. It would submit its finding and recommendations to the provincial government before the end of November.
Duvenage said last month that more people are not tagged and not paying for e-tolls than those who are.
He estimated that between 35% and 40% of Gauteng road users are tagged for the e-toll system, with the e-toll bill surpassing R1 billion.
Meanwhile, a recent report revealed that only 14% of companies’ motor vehicle fleets have an account with Sanral.