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Sanral: tolling a rational decision

The decision to toll Gauteng's highways was based on a complex situation, and was completely rational, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Thursday.

“When the applicants - Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) - say it would cost R20 billion over 20 years for the e-toll project, they have only looked at a piece of a puzzle and made an assessment,” lawyer for the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), David Unterhalter, said.

A toll gate on the N1 North just before the Beyers Naude offramp in Gauteng. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko. Credit: Independent Newspapers

When people used any public facility, like the roads, they always had to pay for them “one way or another”.

Judge Bill Prinsloo was hearing responding arguments from Sanral against Outa's application for an urgent interdict delaying the start of tolling.

Attending Thursday's court proceedings was Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Unterhalter said the effect of the interdict would be felt for several years afterwards.

“The interdict is like asking a shop owner to close its doors for a few months. The damage is done in months, but will take years to rehabilitate. Just look at Greece.”

He said the interdict would impact on Sanral's ability to pay its creditors, which would affect South Africa's credit rating.

Outa's lawyer Alistair Franklin said the interdict would not be “catastrophic” for Sanral.

“There would be no lost income if it (the e-toll system) is delayed for two to three months.”

Franklin said if Sanral was at risk of defaulting on its debt, the Treasury would take over.

“They have also not explained why the delay from the interdict would have different consequences from the previous four postponements.”

The court was expected to make a decision on the matter on Thursday, as tolling was scheduled to start on Monday. - Sapa

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