The fuss about e-tolling has for too long been wrongfully centred around the price a kilometre. We are missing the point: it’s about the very need for e-tolling itself and the spin doctors have cleverly diverted our attention away from this subject.
We do not dispute the need for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP). But we need answers about the decision to adopt the proposed e-tolling mechanism. The public knew virtually nothing about the complex electronic tolling process until mid 2010, when we saw the gantries being constructed. No meaningful consultation or engagement had taken place with business or the public and the question is, why not?
The simplest and least expensive way to fund commuter road infrastructure upgrading is to do this via a fuel levy. This is how our roads and upgrades were funded in the past. Sadly, it appears the provisions for the GFIP were either not made, insufficient or spent elsewhere and I guess this is a matter that needs answering by the authorities. What are you doing with our taxes and levies which are supposed to be provided for such capital infrastructure upgrades?
The public at large would rather fund this extra tax through the far simpler method of adding a few extra cents on a litre of petrol – no gantries, no tags in cars, no topping up tag accounts, no policing the system. So why was this “fuel levy” option never offered to us?
Why the need for such an expensive process when the collection of funds could be so much easier with 100 percent foolproof revenue collection?
Business Unity SA and other watchdogs need to take a closer look at the use of fuel levies. The obvious questions that may arise in this debate are: What is the extent of this addition to the fuel levy to fund the GFIP? Based on the number of cars on the roads, average distances travelled and consumption rates, to fund the R20 billion (this figure also needs to be scrutinised) over 15 years including interest, should not cost us more than 15c a litre.
When challenged on this, the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) came up with a figure of R1.60 a litre. Vastly different, so let’s ask it to show us where it got this number from.
What to do with the existing gantries? The Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras can be put to good use in finding stolen cars and for other operations. And if they cannot be put to good use, take them down. Yes, this would be a waste, but not a fraction of the waste of money for this grossly inefficient e-tolling process.
Why should Cape Town or Durban citizens pay this extra 15c a litre in their fuel price? You don’t want to introduce different regional fuel funding levies. This opens a can of worms and potential for abuse if handed to regional government coffers.
Fuel levies must be managed at a national level. The four-lane highways around other large cities are not tolled in this manner and who paid for it? They were built on all our taxes. All national road infrastructure upgrades are for everyone.
Gauteng is the economic hub of Africa, transport efficiency will have a positive economic impact for citizens, businesses and government. Bring into the debate the actual need for this e-tolling “farce”.
It is time the public demand reasons behind this kind of decision-making. Decisions of this nature without thorough input from all stakeholders not only affects the broader business community and the economy, but have a negative impact on everyone’s already stressed budgets.