Cape Town – Further cuts to e-tariffs on the unpopular Gauteng toll road programme might be on the cards, Business Day reported on Monday.
Tolling was supposed to begin in April 2011, but at least three proposed start dates have failed to materialise. Tariffs have been cut twice since legal battles about the issue started.
Transport Minister Ben Martins said his department is trying to find ways of reducing the effect of tolling.
Critics of the government’s e-tolling plan include the ANC’s Gauteng branch, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, opposition political parties and various civil society groups.
The transport laws and related matters amendment bill provides for the electronic and cross border collection of toll fees.
A lower tariff may be regarded as a final offer of compromise from the state to get the bill approved.
The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) borrowed R20bn to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project by issuing bonds to investors.
Delays to the implementation of tolling have already required the Treasury to bail out Sanral with about R6bn and the agency might need more relief if tariffs are cut again.
Opposition to tolling is not limited to Gauteng, but has spread to the rest of the country. Many opponents to tolling propose the expanded use of the fuel levy instead.
In June the DA seeked insight into the contract for services between Sanral, the Austrian company Kapsch TrafficCom, and the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) joint venture.
Sanral claimed it had awarded the e-tolling contract to the ETC because its tender was more than R2bn lower than the next offer.
This followed an announcement by Austrian company Kapsch TrafficCom that its "loss-making days" would end when e-tolling started.
Cosatu said it was appalled that the Austrian e-tolling company expects to make about R664m a year from the Gauteng e-tolling system.
Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona denied that money collected from e-tolling in Gauteng would go overseas, but said it would go to Sanral.
"ETC is paid for services rendered on a monthly basis, and the payment is strictly according to a bill of quantities as specified in the tender contract," he said in a statement.
Furthermore, the City of Cape Town has successfully interdicted the R10bn N1-N2 Winelands toll project from proceeding while it tries to review the decision to allow tolling on the province’s roads.
Sanral also has plans for toll roads on stretches of the N3 between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the N12 from Kimberley to Johannesburg, the N1 at Musina, the N1 between Kroonstad and Winburg, the N1 Botlokwa Interchange in Limpopo as well as a new toll road in the Eastern Cape.
There is currently an investment backlog of more than R169bn in roads.
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