Gauteng back roads 'not a solution'

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Transport minister does not believe that many motorists will use alternative roads, like the Old Johannesburg Road, for very long. File photo: Antoine de Ras

Thousands of motorists who abandoned Gauteng freeways when the electronic tolling system started yesterday are not expected to keep to their alternative routes for long.

Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters and South African National Road Agency Limited (Sanral) head Nazir Alli said the department expected motorists to move back on to the freeways because the alternative routes would be congested and would mean extra time on the road.

Yesterday was the first day of the e-toll system and motorists who were not registered opted to use back routes and not the highway.

Traffic on the highways was lighter than usual.

Motorists opted to use the Old Johannesburg Road to travel between Pretoria and Joburg.

Nelmapius Road, an alternative route to Joburg through Irene, was closed because of flooding after last week’s heavy rains.

Emergency services spokesman Johan Pieterse said: “It’s unclear when the road will be fixed, but only a few cars are using the road.”

Alli said: “The numbers are showing the right trend. We believe that as time goes by more people will come to register.

“The increase in the number of registrations happened after the court case yesterday (on Monday).”

The Freedom Front Plus court bid to have the e-tolls implementation halted was struck off the roll by the Pretoria High Court.

NEARLY 800 000 REGISTERED

Alli said after the conclusion of the case on Monday, 29 000 motorists registered for the system. Nearly 800 000 motorists were registered, he said, adding that 50 percent of the registered were private individuals and the rest company fleets.

Registered users will pay 30c/km and unregistered ones 59c/km.

Sanral board chairwoman Tembakazi Mnyaka said: “Over time, people will go back to the highways. They need to get to where they are going on time and the other routes will be clogged. We are doing this because we want to make the roads safer. Unfortunately, we can only widen the road so much and have already done that. That is why we have an integrated public transport system. People have to use buses and the Gautrain.”

Peters said: “The monthly toll costs to individual users are much overestimated by critics of the project.

“Actual expected monthly tariffs payable by light motor vehicles show that about 83 percent will pay not more than R100 per month and 0.59 percent of motorists in the same class of vehicles will reach the maximum monthly cap of R450. More than 65 percent of road users in Gauteng use public transport. This means that the students, the workers will not be affected by the tolls.”

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) maintains that Sanral is misleading the public over tolls when it says the cost of e-toll collections is only 17 percent of the revenue generated by e-tolling.

Wayne Duvenage, Outa chairman, said in the US, e-toll administration and collection cost over 5 percent. “The 17 percent is simply excessive, unacceptable and well outside any reasonable benchmark.”

CRIMINAL RECORD THREAT

Peters cautioned motorists about getting criminal records for not paying for use of the highways. “We do not want a situation where people have criminal records for not paying. It is the morally correct thing to do to pay for an upgraded road system.”

Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) says it still has unanswered questions over how the billing process will work. The organisation sent a letter to Sanral and the department asking for clarity, but was threatened with legal action.

JPSA chairman Howard Dembovsky said they had asked their legal team to write to Sanral and the department for a response.

“Should we again get no joy from doing so, we will be left with no alternative but to consider approaching the high court for clarity on this matter.

“Should we be forced to approach the high court, we are reasonably confident that the court will not punish us for simply asking for clarity over statements which have resulted in an enormous amount of misinformation being disseminated by Sanral and others,” Dembovsky added.

Cosatu vowed to continue its fight against e-tolls and said the government had demonstrated its stubbornness and unwillingness to co-operate with workers.

“December 3 will represent the day on which our government has refused to listen to the views of the people and the poor,” Cosatu Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile said.

“It represents a clear demonstration of cadres who have been power-drunk and believe that they could do as they so wish,” Dakile told reporters. -Pretoria News


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