PRETORIA – The non-compliance of motorists in paying their e-tolls has resulted in the R22 billion originally invested in the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) ballooning to R40.5bn, because of interest on the debt.
Coenie Vermaak, the chief executive of Electronic Toll Collection, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Austrian-based Kapsch Group, confirmed this yesterday and stressed this additional money could have been used to build the second phase of the GFIP.
“In the end, taypayers will still pay for it. Even if we shut down the system, even if we starve it, we as citizens of South Africa will have to pay this debt,” he told a transport forum hosted by engineering group Aurecon.
Vermaak added that if motorists continued along this path “we will destroy ourselves” and the debt would continue to increase. “If you think about R40bn debt, it will make SAA look like a walk in the park if you have to bail out Sanral (SA National Roads Agency) this afternoon. The consequences for us are terrible,” he said.
Vermaak said they had done some studies, which revealed that road users were not only upset about e-tolls but also upset with the government.
“They are unhappy with the way the government was run and corruption. The easiest way people could make a stand was with the e-tolls. We understand that,” he said. The public transport modal share had dropped to 38 percent from 51 percent since mid 1990, while vehicle ownership had doubled since 1994 to 12 million registered users, of which 39 percent were in Gauteng.
He said 220 cars each day were added to the road network and it was conservatively estimated that by 2037 there would be 3.1 million motorised trips in average peak hour in Gauteng.
In a best performing scenario, the average road network speed would drop from 47km/h to 29km/h by 2037 while if they did nothing, network speeds would drop to below 10km/h.
Vermaak said that this would mean that it would take six hours to travel by road from Johannesburg to Pretoria.
He said the reality was that there were insufficient funds to even maintain the road network and Gauteng accounted for 40 percent of South Africa’s GDP and was key to the economic growth and development.
“If we stifle growth in Gauteng, we stifle growth in South Africa,” he said.
The answer they had for this was the GFIP, stressing that it was not e-tolls, which was just a mechanism on how to collect money to pay off the debt. He said the total GFIP network was planned to be about 600km and there was currently 201km of road under this network, with further upgrades not possible, because toll road collections were only about 30 percent.
These massive multibillion-rand projects could not be funded by the fiscus, which was under huge pressure.
He said the second phase of the GFIP involved 158km of new road which would relieve congestion in specific areas, including Sandton, link the three main highways between Pretoria and Johannesburg, and create 12 000 new jobs.