Pretoria - How does the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) calculate the toll fee that will be levied on Gauteng highways from June – and why were important players not consulted?
This is what business people are asking following the announcement of toll fees which are widely regarded as a blow for Gauteng as well as the country’s economy.
Sanral project manager Alex van Niekerk said the public had been consulted in 2007 during the legislative process to declare the roads concerned toll roads. He said that at the time Sanral said the toll would be about 50c a kilometre and this was still the case.
Sanral had attempted to factor into its discount system issues that had arisen both during and after the consultative process, such as the toll applicable to motorcycles.
Michael Tatalias, chief executive of the Tourism Services Association, wanted to know the basis on which the decision, for example, of a 50% discount for motorcycles had been taken. Did this mean Sanral’s was making a 50% profit, he asked. How could one know if their calculations were accurate?
Tatalias said there should be an independent regulator for toll fees, and public participation was essential.
He said the toll fees would push up the cost of South Africa as a tourist destination at a time when tourists were tremendously price-sensitive and there were many alternative destinations from which to choose.
Van Niekerk said the Department of Transport was Sanral’s regulator.
Eric Cornelius, chief executive of the Bus Operators Association (Saboa), said the industry had requested exemption from toll fees and was very concerned that this had not been granted.
Most bus operators make very little profit and are in fact fighting for survival, he said. They are serving the extremely poor and cannot pass toll fees, rising diesel costs and inflation on to their clients.
Cornelius also requested transparency about how the toll fees had been arrived at. His organisation had not been consulted. It wanted to know how much profit had been factored in and the amount of the payback for the construction costs.
Cornelius said it would be a good thing for an independent body to examine the toll fees before they were implemented. In his view there should be a regulator to review the tolls and resolve disputes.
Zenzo Mahlangu, general secretary of transport union Satawu, called the toll fees a “disaster”. He said companies would merely pass the costs down to consumers, and he asked how much profit Sanral would be making.
Consultation processes are usually held before something like toll fees are introduced, such as those to which Eskom is subjected, but there was no consultation on the toll fees. Satawu will approach the Gauteng government on the issue.
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), will also turn to the Gauteng government for help, said Frans Mashishi, the association’s Gauteng representative.
He said taxis should be exempted from paying tolls, which would kill off the industry.
Van Niekerk said Sanral needs to generate about R300m a month from toll fees to get its financial model to work.
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