E-toll tariffs will be adjusted downwards but government remains committed to the principle of road users funding improvements to keep Sanral solvent, the National Treasury said on Wednesday.
In his 2015/16 budget speech in the National Assembly, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said: “Concerns regarding the socio-economic impact of toll tariffs have been heard, and revised monthly ceilings will shortly be proposed.”
He added that further government funding could be expected when he tabled his adjustments appropriation in October this year, providing some succour for both road users and the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
The introduction of e-tolls to finance the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project turned into a political hot-potato issue and the announcement of relief for road users in Gauteng comes ahead of next year’s local government elections.
Nene denied that the relief was politically motivated and stressed that the principle of tolling remained firmly in place, adding with regard to the project: “Cost recovery from road users will continue to be the principal financing mechanism for this major road system.”
Finance department director general Lungisa Fuzile suggested that the same would apply to future road improvement projects.
“There is a consideration to say maybe there could be adjustments that still don’t violate the principle of user pays… but help improve compliance to make sure that not only is the system viable this way but future ones too can be viable and the mechanism can be extended even beyond where it is, in time of course, after following all kind of due processes.”
Fuzile said the decision to reduce tariffs came from consultations with roads authorities, on the one hand, and interested parties in Gauteng, on the other.
The conclusion was to retain e-tolls but lighten the burden on commuters.
“It is now common cause that there was a panel, the panel came up with conclusions, several of them actually helpful.
“The principle, they accept. The panel also emphasises that it is only through this kind of principle that we can be able to build roads of this standard that we have in Gauteng, and have more of them without compromising the fiscus.
“It was clear that there was an issue for some people in terms of the impact on their pockets, they would be willing to pay and comply if it was made a bit easier.”