Cape Town - The introduction of tolls to the Western Cape is only one small part of the proposed N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway Project.
South African National Roads Agency Limited project engineer Tiago Massingue said on Tuesday: “Tolls are a small component of the overall project. In money terms, it's not even 20 percent. The bulk of the cost is for upgrades.”
Speaking on the sidelines of a Sanral media briefing in Bellville, he said the project included 16 “brand new” interchanges and upgrades to pavements, bridges, and tunnels.
"You'd call it a traditional toll."
Massingue said the highway project would introduce conventional toll booths, rather than e-tolling gantries.
"It's a boom-down situation where you go, you stop, you pay and you go."
He said the e-tolling system, as introduced in the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, was only valid when roads carried a huge number of vehicles.
An example was the Ben Schoeman Interchange in Gauteng which carried 220 000 vehicles a day, making it impractical to stop and start with traditional tolls.
Massingue said highway portions around Cape Town carried between 52 000 and 160 000 vehicles a day.
"In 30 years from now, if that situation did arise that we jump exponentially to the high volume recorded in Gauteng, then we'll introduce e-tolling."
The proposed concession route along the N1 extends from west of the R300 interchange through to Sandhills. The N2 portion of the proposed toll road concession extends from west of the R300 to Bot River. About 180km of highway in the province will be tolled should the project go ahead.
In May 2013, the Western Cape High Court granted the city of Cape Town an interim interdict preventing Sanral from implementing or advancing the toll project, including the conclusion of any contract or commencement of construction.
The interim relief was granted pending the court's review of Sanral's decision to implement the toll project.
The review date has yet to be determined.
Massingue said Sanral had not negotiated a contract with a prospective concessionaire pending the "unfortunate" court action.
Sanral is responsible for about 19 700km of the country's 750 000km road network. Of these 84 percent of roads are not tolled, nine percent are operated by agency tolls, and seven percent by private concessionaires.
Asked why Sanral wanted to use a private funding model for the Winelands project instead of looking to the National Treasury, he said: “Our annual budget from the Treasury is R10 billion. This project, a single project, will cost R10 billion. It's almost impossible for Treasury to raise that kind of money for upgrades.
“It's wrong to assume the Treasury will always have money – but, regardless of who pays, the upgrades and improvements remain crucial.” SAPA
HUGUENOT TUNNEL NEEDS UPGRADE
Massigue said ventilation in the Western Cape's Huguenot tunnel could only be upgraded if the Winelands project went ahead.
"The tunnel is a major component,” he explained. “That's our biggest concern at the moment because safety comes first - we cannot operate a tunnel if we feel it's unsafe."
Sanral regional manager Kobus van der Walt said the Huguenot tunnel and road needed to be upgraded because it was not designed for the number of heavy vehicles it was carrying.
The toll tunnel on the N1 goes through the Du Toitskloof mountain range between Paarl and Worcester.
"If we have a head-on collision in the tunnel and a fire, we’ll sit with a major problem,” he said.
“In Europe, a tunnel has to be able to withstand a 100-megawatt fire. Our tunnel can only carry a 30-megawatt fire; that is basically one burning car. But as soon as a tanker catches fire, we're talking about a 100-megawatt, maybe 200-megawatt fire," he added.
"The big problem is not so much the fire, it's the smoke. We need to upgrade the ventilation system in the tunnel."
Sanral's main plan, he said, was to open a second tunnel to allow for two separate passages carrying traffic flowing in opposite directions.