‘E-tolling highly likely to be introduced throughout South Africa’ – OUTA

If the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral)gains court approval to implement e-tolling in Gauteng, it was highly likely the system would be introduced in the rest of the country.

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Sanral said earlier that it planned to use the technology countrywide. “If this happens, the cost of transporting feed, inputs and food across SA will be affected,” said Wayne Duvenage, chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA). “What they can’t have is a method of collecting funds from residents to pay for road infrastructure upgrading in one province and not in others. The big transaction clearing centre they’ve built in Midrand is a national one and not just for Gauteng,” he said.

The Road Freight Association (RFA) said it supports e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), based on current costs and the employment of an independent regulator. However, RFA spokesperson Gavin Kelly said this didn’t mean it would support any future e-toll expansion. “We still maintain that the administration cost in respect of collection and our internal administration could have been avoided if fuel levies were utilised and earmarked to fund the upgrades of freeways,” he said.

But with escalating fuel prices, the current discounted e-toll tariff structure would have less of a cost impact on operators – and therefore the consumer price index (or inflation), said Kelly. The RFA, however, is strongly opposed to the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) collecting e-tolls, as a number of investigations into allegations of fraud and other irregularities at the agency were under way.

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Duvenage said there was a huge cost involved with collecting tolls, including running a ‘police force’ to round up non-compliant users. “The fuel levy is the most equitable way of collecting funds for road upgrades. There are no administration costs and there is 100% compliance,” he said. Mpumalanga feed transporter André Meyer said national e-tolling would have a huge negative effect on transport costs.

“I’m afraid farmers must pay and they’ll have to raise their prices. In the end, the man in the street is going to pay.” Meyer said his trucks face a toll gate between Middelburg and Witbank which charges R92 for a 4-tonner. “That’s pretty expensive, so I use the old road instead, which is very busy. A bridge over the Olifants River broke last year and the road was closed until a landowner put a bridge over the river and charged people R20 to use it. “Then a neighbour did the same but charged only R10. “It just illustrates how the public at large and transporters in particular are being ripped off,” said Meyer.