Why e-tolls were fought to the finish

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etolls may 31 outa INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Marc Corcoran, of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, addresses the South African National Consumer Union in Groenkloof. Photo: Etienne Creux

Sanral’s decision to implement e-tolling in Gauteng was not a well thought through process and not in the best interest of the consumer.

This was said on Wednesday by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s Marc Corcoran who addressed the South African National Consumer Union (Sancu) on the birth of the alliance and its journey to stop e-tolling.

On April 28, just two days before the official launch of the e-tolling system in Gauteng, Judge Bill Prinsloo granted an interdict in the Pretoria High Court to bring tolling to a halt, pending a full review of the records and decisions behind the tolling system.

“By acknowledging that the tolling system would have a massive impact on Gauteng road users, Judge Prinsloo gave South Africans hope. His ruling was a gift to a country that feels powerless against corruption in both the government and the private sector,” Corcoran said.

He explained that it was not an easy road for the alliance which was established by a collective of concerned business associations to form a co-ordinated strategy against the tolling system.

Corcoran explained they opposed the e-tolling system for the following reasons:

* It was inefficient, effectively taking between 30 percent and 50 percent in administration, management and operating costs to collect money for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).

* Sanral and the government had not acted in the best interests of consumers, and their arguments put forward to motivate for the tolling system were flawed and without substance.

* The alliance was of the opinion that Sanral didn’t conduct proper and comprehensive consultations with the public and business on e-tolling as it claimed. Alliance members felt that Sanral’s work and research fell short of what was needed for a project of such magnitude.

* Sanral also failed to be transparent with figures and funding models being applied to the tolling process. The alliance felt that the actual costs relating to the tolling system – not the tender – could never be established by Sanral, showing a total disregard for the consumer’s money that would have to be spent on the system.

* Lastly, there were very few alternative routes available and public transport infrastructure was still hugely inadequate, making the system punitive to the consumer.

“Despite several engagements with Sanral in the past, they have still not managed to make the exact figures available. Many of the challenges put to Sanral remain unanswered,” Corcoran said.

Responding to a question from the audience on “What now?” Corcoran responded: “(The alliance) provided sufficient evidence of Sanral’s irrational decision-making to convince a high court to issue an interdict against the process.”

Corcoran said the alliance was surprised to hear the cabinet’s announcement to appeal against the court’s granting of the interdict against the tolling system of Gauteng’s freeways. “It is now in the hands of the court and we suspect that the appeal will be heard sometime in June. We still urge motorists… not to buy e-tags and for those who (have done so) to return them,” he said.

Pretoria News


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