Midrand - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has urged motorists to understand that decongesting Gauteng highways was the rationale behind the much-maligned e-tolling project.
The deputy president said this rationale was lost in arguments with those who felt e-tolling would be a burden to their finances.
Motlanthe, who retires from the government after the May 7 elections, yesterday officially opened the central operations centre – the operational nerve centre of the e-toll system – at Samrand on the N1.
Detractors had said e-tolling was too expensive, he said, but the traditional boom-gate method of toll collection was going against the aim of decongesting the highways.
“We tried to make people understand. Some industries eventually bought into the idea. But we could not convince our labour industry colleagues, who told us a resolution had been made not to support the system. They promised to revisit the decision but never did.”
Motlanthe said religious organisations had promised to use the pulpit to spread the e-toll message. That had not happened either.
He said the government was fully behind e-tolling as well as the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), which he described as one of the best state utilities.
E-tolling uses high-definition cameras linked to the operations centre, monitoring the country’s first multilane free-flow toll system.
Improved lighting, signage and management of traffic flows were enhancing road safety while making the N1 between Joburg and Pretoria user-friendly thanks to instant information being available to road users, he said.
The centre has 1300 employees working with a software system of which 90 percent was developed locally. Motlanthe said through enhanced traffic flow and accessibility, the project would contribute significantly to economic growth.
“The Gauteng e-road project is an important contributor in keeping South Africa’s economic hub moving. More than 1.2 million e-tags have been taken up and more road users are still registering,” he said. The operational start of a system with an impact on about 2.5 million monthly users would not happen without initial teething problems.
“Government is aware of the e-tolling system challenges, but I’m assured Sanral is doing everything to resolve these problems.”