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Motorists in Gauteng may soon have to pay e-tolls for nearly 500km of highways.
This comes after Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane confirmed in the legislature this week that phase two of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) would go ahead.
The SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) declared in 2009 that the project to improve and toll roads in Gauteng would happen in three phases.
The first phase, 185km of roads, has been completed and it is expected that Sanral will announce the start of tolling for this section of the road soon.
ALMOST EVERY HIGHWAY
Phase two comprises 300km of roads – almost every highway in Gauteng will be tolled.
DA spokesman for Gauteng Jack Bloom issued a statement this morning indicating that the premier said in reply to his questions in the legislature that phase two would go ahead.
Bloom said this was a reversal of the announcement by former Transport minister S’bu Ndebele in November 2011 that phase two would be halted until all consultative processes were exhausted.
“It now appears that the decision has already been made, and will follow the planned introduction of e-tolls on phase one of the GFIP,” said Bloom.
He said the estimated cost of the second phase was R24 billion, “but it is likely that it will cost vastly more than this”.
It cost about R22bn to upgrade the roads in the first phase, and according to an affidavit by Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, the full cost, which included the e-toll system, was R70bn.
FEES TO ESCALATE
“E-toll charges will rise dramatically to pay for it unless an alternative source of finance is found. This raises the stakes in the e-toll battle. Government seems determined to push tolls countrywide, including the N1-N2 Cape Winelands and other routes,” said Bloom.
Mokonyane’s spokesman Thebe Mohatle did not comment by the time of publication.
A document outlining Sanral’s declaration of intent 2009-12 includes a map showing the roads to be upgraded and built but does not indicate whether all will be tolled.
However the document indicates that all the roads will be fitted with the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and makes it clear that ITS “will include an electronic toll-payment facility using electronic vehicle identification”.
The document also says the second phase of the project includes “the supply, installation and operation of open road electronic toll collection systems and related infrastructure”.
The maps show that this system is also intended to be rolled out in KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town.
A section of road that is part of phase two is the M1 between Corlett Drive and Woodmead in Sandton – a section of road that the Gauteng Roads and Transport Department announced last year would be upgraded by Sanral.
But MEC Ismail Vadi promised at the time that this section of the road was just being upgraded, and not tolled.
Sanral however has made it clear that the only way these upgrades can be funded is through the user-pay principle.
The current e-toll system is still the subject of a court appeal from the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, whose chairman Wayne Duvenage said it was surprising that there were plans to go ahead with phase two when there was so much controversy and a court case around phase one. -The Star