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Gloves off in Winelands toll saga

May 28 2015 13:17

Nazir Alli

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Sanral breaks its silence on Cape toll 'secret'

 

Cape Town – A clash of ideology between Sanral and the Democratic Alliance (DA) about the Winelands toll road project gained steam on Thursday when the two bodies argued over the impact it would have on the agriculture sector in the Western Cape.

“Once again, the DA got it plain wrong on the toll roads in and around Cape Town,” said national roads agency Sanral's CEO Nazir Alli. 

“Beverly Schäfer, its [the DA's] provincial spokesperson on agriculture, claims that the proposed Winelands toll road project will have devastating consequences resulting in job losses and increased poverty in the agriculture sector,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

“This is a misconception and incorrect,” said Alli.

“The upgrades to the roads, the net savings and benefits to farmers are positive even after payment of the toll tariffs,” he said. “Better roads reduce congestion, fuel consumption, wear and tear on vehicles, the chances of accidents, and journey times.”

DA: Sanral is trying to steamroll South Africans

In response, Schäfer told Fin24 on Thursday that “Sanral is again trying to steamroll South Africans by imposing toll roads on the poorest of the poor”.

“It is quite ironic that Sanral is trying to attack me, when the facts actually come from their own reports. Maybe they should read them in more detail,” said Schäfer, who is a member of the Western Cape provincial parliament and committee chair of Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture.

Schäfer said on April 20 that the Western Cape would have to pay three times more than Gauteng residents to drive on the N1 and N2 in the Winelands, which Sanral slammed as “false”, saying that “the toll tariffs have not been set”.

Schäfer responded: “It would be very interesting to see these numbers, but the truth is, that no one has them [as he said above]… We believe that his claim to a net savings is a bluff.”

Sanral: DA will cause transport crisis

The DA and Schäfer’s view will result in a transport crisis in the Western Cape, Sanral claimed.

“It will place an enormous burden on the poorest of the poor, destroy jobs, hamper movement and cripple the regional economy,” Sanral argued.

“Schäfer neglects to mention two important issues around tolls. First, most Cape Town commuters will not pay tolls. Second, there are many diversions around the two urban plazas,” said Alli.

“Without the upgrades the cost of driving and transporting goods would be higher than with the upgraded and tolled roads. This will increase costs to all sectors of the Western Cape economy.”

"Sanral is mandated and has an obligation to providing safely engineered national roads for the country.  The current electricity crisis highlights the importance of maintaining, upgrading and expanding critical infrastructure.  Roads are similar and need regular maintenance and upgrades."

Read the below statements in chronological order to get the blow-by-blow debate:

Statement by Beverley Schäfer (April 20):

Winelands Toll Roads will devastate the agricultural sector

The Winelands Tolling Project proposed by Sanral for the Western Cape will not only destroy jobs in the farming sector, but also increase costs for farmers, and impact on the movement of thousands of farm workers. This will be devastating for the poorest of the poor, especially the residents of Wallacedene, who are employed on farms in the Joostenbergvlakte area.

Following the release of reports made secret by Sanral, I have scrutinised the documents indicating that residents of the Western Cape will have to pay three times more than Gauteng residents to drive on N1 and N2 in the Winelands. My further investigation to the effect on the farming sector, key to rural Western Cape, reveals that the Winelands Toll Roads project will have a devastating effect on the adjacent farming sector.

In line with the National Development Plan, the farming sector is crucial to the region’s job creation, and the DA-led Western Cape government recognises that agriculture can create more than 100 000 new jobs in the province. These jobs will go to the rural poor, who need it most.

The toll roads will also result in a reduction of cash flow for the fruit growers in the Elgin and Hex River Valley, who already struggle financially. Any further financial hardship experienced by these farmers in the fruit export industry, may result in future unemployment among farm workers.

The implication of these toll roads, impacts on the mobility of farm workers, making it difficult for them to access essential services, to maintain social contact with their families and limits movement of thousands of seasonal farm workers.

The consequences of the plans for the Winelands Toll Roads will be an enormous burden on the poorest of the poor and must be stopped. I intend to do whatever I can to prevent Sanral from destroying jobs, and hampering ease of movement for farm workers.

Statement by Sanral, May 28:

Most Cape commuters will not pay tolls

Proposed Winelands Toll road set to strengthen the Western Cape economy
 
Once again, the DA got it plain wrong on the toll roads in and around Cape Town.  Beverly Schäfer, its provincial spokesperson on agriculture, claims that the proposed Winelands toll road project will have devastating consequences resulting in job losses and increased poverty in the agriculture sector.

This is a misconception and incorrect, says Nazir Alli, CEO of Sanral. It is a strategic infrastructure project that is necessary to sustain and develop the Western Cape economy with such benefits as job creation and eradication of poverty.

The upgrades to the roads, the net savings and benefits to farmers are positive even after payment of the toll tariffs, says Alli. Better roads reduce congestion, fuel consumption, wear and tear on vehicles, the chances of accidents, and journey times.
 
All of these savings are important as farming is transport intensive and time savings are critical in moving produce safely to market.  Furthermore, business and farmers can claim VAT on toll tariffs and the non-VAT portions of the tolls as a legitimate business expense.
 
Sanral, through the environmental and intent to toll process, consulted widely and extensively before undertaking the Winelands Toll Project. It has insisted on a comprehensive discount regime to protect industries such as agriculture.  These discounts include local user discounts (particularly in the rural areas), frequent user discounts and public transport discounts.
 
To suggest that the Western Cape  is set to pay three times more than Gauteng residents to drive on the N1/N2 in the Winelands is false. The toll tariffs have not been set. The Minister of Transport decides on the tariff and this will only occur once various processes, including the tender process, have been finalised.
 
Ms Schäfer neglects to mention two important issues around tolls. First, most Cape Town commuters will not pay tolls. Second, there are many diversions around the two urban plazas, says Alli.
 
On the western side of the N1, the proposed plaza location is at Joostenbergvlakte. This means that all commuters travelling to the west to the CBD would not pay toll. This includes people living in the suburbs of Kraaifontein, Brakenfell, Bellville, Durbanville, Parow, Goodwood and Maitland.
 
On the western side of the N2 the proposed location of the Kuilsriver plaza is between the M32 (Spine Road) and the R310 (Baden Powell Drive). This means that all commuters travelling west of this plaza would not pay tolls. This includes people living in the suburbs of Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Phillippi, Guguletu, Ottery, Retreat and Grassy Park. It is these areas where some of the poorer Capetonians live. It also includes Masiphumelele in the southern peninsula and Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay.
 
Diversions around the proposed plazas at Joostenbergvlakte and Kuilsriver means that low income people who commute from  Somerset West, Stellenbosch or Paarl would also not have to pay  if they so choose.
 
A factor that is conveniently ignored is that many sections of the N1 and N2 in the Western Cape are at capacity and in desperate need of maintenance. The morning and afternoon peak times are becoming longer and longer. Doing nothing is going to result in peak congestion throughout the day. Any delay in maintenance results in an exponential increase in costs.
 
Without the upgrades the cost of driving and transporting goods would be higher than with the upgraded and tolled roads. This will increase costs to all sectors of the Western Cape economy.
 
Ms Schäfer casually states that the project be stopped, but she offers no alternatives. If Sanral were to ignore the upgrading of the road then the Cape is surely heading straight for a crisis. It would lose competitiveness, also in agriculture, which needs good roads to quickly move produce to the market.  The reality is that poor roads damage agricultural produce and result in increased packaging costs, says Alli.
 
Sanral is mandated and has an obligation to providing safely engineered national roads for the country.  The current electricity crisis highlights the importance of maintaining, upgrading and expanding critical infrastructure.  Roads are similar and need regular maintenance and upgrades.
 
As for funding through the fuel levy: this will have an even worse impact on the poor. The reality is that any increase in the fuel levy would need to be high enough to pay for all road upgrades around the country.  This would have a detrimental effect on poorer people who drive older, less fuel efficient cars and cannot afford new hybrid or electric vehicles. The impact on farm workers is worsened by the fact that they typically travel further than other people.
 
Ms Schäfer is silent on all these critical issues.
 
She appears to ignore the inconvenient truth that these improvements need to be paid for. Government does not pay for infrastructure. People do, whether through taxes, savings, tolling or through higher transport costs due to poor roads.
 
In 2014 there was a national budget deficit of 4%, which is well over the 3% international benchmark. This has led to a growth in government debt to 46.1% of GDP. This, in association with other factors, has resulted in a downgrade in sovereign credit rating for the country to BBB.
 
These changes mean that the ability of the South African government to fund infrastructure projects is compromised. This severely limits the option of funding through government borrowing and paying off this debt by means of a fuel levy or even through taxes.
 
Could Ms Schäfer be proposing that the government divert funding from other areas such as education or health?  
 
The only viable option left is through a Sanral - operated toll road or a Public Private Partnership.  Either option involves raising finance through the financial markets and repaying these through toll revenue.
 
The DA and Ms Schäfer’s view will result in a transport crisis in the Western Cape – it will place an enormous burden on the poorest of the poor, destroy jobs, hamper movement and cripple the regional economy.

Statement by Beverley Schäfer (May 28):

Poor people in rural areas will pay for governments failures
 
Sanral is again trying to steamroll South Africans by imposing toll roads on the poorest of the poor. In a statement dated 28th May, they claim I got it wrong when I showed how the Winelands toll road project will have devastating consequences, and result in job losses and increased poverty in the agriculture sector in our Province. It is quite ironic that Sanral is trying to attack me, when the facts actually come from their own reports. Maybe they should read them in more detail.
 
Mr Nazir Alli claims that the roads will provide net savings and benefits to farmers even after payment of the toll tariffs. It would be very interesting to see these numbers, but the truth is, that no one has them because as he goes on to say, “the toll tariffs have not yet been set”. We believe that his claim to a net savings is a bluff.

Furthermore, Sanral are incorrect when they say that they have consulted widely with our farms and rural communities using these toll roads, as no meeting with relevant parties have yet to take place. But let me remind Mr Nazir Alli, that the City of Cape Town has had to take Sanral to court just so that we could see the actual reports and determine the impact that these toll roads will have on our people.
 
Sanral seems to believe that poor people only live in the Cape Town Metro area, but the truth is, that some of our poorest communities live in our rural areas, with the greatest impact on our seasonal farm workers. The Western Cape through Project Khulisa aims to grow the Agricultural Economy and we believe that the Winelands Toll Roads will impact negatively on this.
 
Once again the national government is trying to force people to pay to compensate for their own failure to prioritise investments into infrastructure. This is the failure of the ANC which is evident across the entire country and stems from power generators to ports and rail networks.

Toll roads are an inefficient, unfair and an anti-poor form of taxation, and no fluff from Mr Nazir Alli will convince South Africans or the Western Cape of anything else.


sanral  |  nazir alli  |  toll
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