A tolling gantry near Allandale offramp on the N1 South. Picture: Cara Viereckl.

Ever wondered why road infrastructure upgrades aren’t simply funded by introducing an additional fuel levy - versus the costly e-tolling gantries currently being implemented on Gauteng freeways?

That’s the same question rental giant Avis is asking.

Wayne Duvenage, chief executive of Avis Rent a Car, said: “We do not dispute the need for the long overdue Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. But it makes more sense for public to fund the tolls through adding a few extra cents per litre of petrol - which avoids gantries, tags in cars, topping up of tag accounts, and the need to police the system.”

Duvenage estimates that an increase of 15 cents per litre of fuel over a 15 year period - based on various factors including the number of cars on Sout Africa’s roads, average distances travelled and consumption rates - should cover the R20-billion that the gantries aim to collect. Duvenage also mentions that drivers in Durban and Cape Town should be subjected to the additional fuel levy as different regional levies could lead to regional government abuse of funds.

When challenged by Avis on the suggested fuel levy, the South African National Roads Agency Limited came up with a figure of R1.60 a litre.

But according to Alex Van Niekerk, Project Manager at GFIP, simply increasing the fuel levy (which is actually a National Treasury issue) would not be feasible as in Gauteng only a third of the 3.4-million registered motorists are claimed to use freeways. This statistic was determined through telephonic research undertaken by the GFIP across 27 000 motorists to determine travel patterns. A fuel levy would therefore unfairly penalise those not using the freeway as often, or at all.

Van Niekerk mentioned that the US government adopted a fuel levy model for road infrastructure improvement, and is facing a funding crisis as a result.

Avis also feels that consumers’ attention has been diverted into focussing solely on the cost per kilometre issue, when the lack of transparency from the GFIP regarding e-tolling in the first place is just as important.

Van Niekerk disagrees, stating that an intense consultation process was involved before the gantries were erected.

Government is currently finalising the tolling structure, with an announcement expected in the near future. - Star Motoring