Walkout mars first e-toll hearing

Nov 14 2012 10:31

Johannesburg - Public hearings on the e-tolling of Gauteng highways continue in Pretoria on Wednesday, despite a walkout at Tuesday night's hearing by angry motorists who claimed their voice is not heard.

The hearings are to give all affected parties an opportunity to share their views with the government about the proposed tolls.

Last month, the government and the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) announced new tariffs for e-tolling of Gauteng's freeways. The announcement, made on October 26, marked the beginning of a 30-day public consultation process.

After this, 14 days would be set aside for Transport Minister Ben Martins to "apply his mind", and another 14 days for the gazetting of the final tariffs, Sapa reported.

This would mean e-tolls could come into effect four days before Christmas.

Also in October, the transport department instructed Sanral to suspend all processes related to the tolling of national roads.

The suspension included the planned phase two of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan, the Cape Winelands and the Wild Coast.

"It is important to note that there's a clear distinction or separation between phase one [almost completed] and phase two [no work has started as yet]," transport spokesperson Tiyane Rikhotso told Sapa.

He said phase one was almost complete and that the department wanted to hear alternative views from the public on the best possible model of financing the debt incurred.

The suspension was welcomed by various organisations, including the SA Municipal Workers' Union, the Freedom Front Plus and AfriForum.

In August, Cabinet approved reduced toll tariffs for the N1 highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Motorcyclists were expected to pay 24c a kilometre, light motor vehicles 40c, medium vehicles R1 and "longer" vehicles R2 a kilometre. Taxis and buses were exempted.

The Star newspaper reported on Wednesday that thousands of Gautengers had been sending the Department of Transport their submissions on why e-tolling should not go ahead.

This comes as the government started its first information session at a hotel in Kempton Park on Tuesday evening into the published e-toll tariffs.

Talk Radio 702 reported on Tuesday night that several people walked out in protest at the information session, saying they were angry that their voices would not count.

The first round of hearings related to tariffs and exemptions and not about the future of e-tolling itself.

The hearing is one of three being held in Gauteng and is part of a month-long process that delayed the rollout of the project.

The hearings were attended by fewer than 100 people.

The newspaper reported that about 2 500 people had already sent messages opposing the e-toll system.

Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance chairperson Wayne Duvenage told The Star that many people had copied the organisation the messages they are sending the government.

Many more people had sent their comments without copying the alliance, according to the report.

On Tuesday Cosatu called on all those affected by e-tolling in Gauteng to attend public meetings on the issue.

"A maximum of 130 persons can be accommodated per venue. Cosatu urges people to get there early and make sure they don't miss the chance to tell government and Sanral NO to e-tolls," said Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesperson Patrick Craven.

The government had already contributed R5.75bn to the project, or 25% of the total debt owed by Sanral.

Wednesday's public meeting would be held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria at 18:00.

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