E-tolling logistically impossible

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Independent Newspapers

File photo: Karen Sandison

The former minister of transport was not given sufficient information to make an informed decision on e-tolling and the public was not properly informed about the tolling of Gauteng’s highways.

These are just two of the main points made in a responding affidavit by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance filed before the court at the weekend.

Outa’s papers are a response to an affidavit filed by Sanral and the department of transport last week stating that the road infrastructure project was meant to boost the economy and that toll fees were meant to subsidise public transport.

Outa is seeking to urgently interdict Sanral’s plans to toll Gauteng’s freeways from April 30.

The answering affidavit points to a lack of information provided by Sanral. In particular, Outa refers to a lack of explanation about the collection costs of e-tolling, that this information was not disclosed to the minister of transport when e-tolling was first proposed and that environmental authorisations were obtained without proper consideration of the socio-economic impact.

Outa said its legal challenge was based on three main points:

The irrationality and unreasonableness of e-tolling as a method of revenue collection.

The inefficiencies and unnecessary expense to the road user as a result of e-tolling.

The serious lack of meaningful engagement and consultation with the people who would ultimately be paying for this upgrade.

In a press release, Outa outlines just how inefficient the e-tolling collection system is in terms of the money needed to run it.

It reads: “E-tolling at current rates with expected escalations will generate in excess of R102 billion over the next 20 years for an infrastructure that costs only R32 billion (including interest) over the same period. This means that R70 billion will have been overpaid by the public, an amount that will be wasted on an elaborate and inefficient administration and collection scheme in which foreign and local companies, along with Sanral, will be enriched.”

In its affidavit, Outa said Sanral did not dispute that the cost of collection would exceed the cost of the upgrade. Sanral had not disclosed the operation costs to the public, nor had it disclosed the information to the court.

The papers also said the decision to toll was “taken hastily without due consideration for other possible funding mechanisms”.

The papers stated: “It is plain that Sanral and the department of transport moved from the 2006 proposal to the first proposal to the cabinet in October 2006 and thereafter to the second proposal to the cabinet in July 2007 without there being any comprehensive consideration of alternative methods of funding instead of tolling.”

Outa said e-tolling was “a logistical impossibility”.

Sanral CEO Nazir Alli had said in papers that a million vehicles were expected to use the e-toll system every day.

Outa stated: “When this figure is put together with the statement by Alli in his letter to Business Unity South Africa, that the expected levels of non-compliance will be seven percent, it emerges that within seven days of the implementation of e-tolling there will be 70 000 non-compliant defaulters from whom toll collection will have to be made each day.”

It concluded that this meant 2.1 million summonses would have to be served every month, using the Criminal Procedure Act and the magistrate’s courts.

The case will be heard in the Pretoria High Court tomorrow. - The Star

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