File picture: Bheki Radebe / Independent Newspapers.

Johannesburg - Congestion charges, ‘no-car’ zones in city centres, increased licence fees for higher-emissions cars, regular emissions testing for older cars (and banning high-mileage cars) as well as further restrictions on heavy trucks. These are just some of the proposals put forward in the Green Transport Strategy for South Africa: (2018-2050), published on Thursday by the Department of Transport.

In an effort to reduce emissions from the transport sector, which reportedly account for 10.8 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, government is planning to make numerous changes to the taxation structures in order to encourage motorists to shift to public transport or lower-emissions vehicles. And while it might seem like motorists are once again being used as a soft target for taxation, there are apparently plans afoot to incentivise electric vehicles, improve the public transport situation and make cities friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists, all in tandem with the proposed changes, although we can’t imagine many would hedge any bets on the public transport situation improving any time soon.

The Green Transport Strategy proposes the following changes:

- To review the current environmental levy on new vehicle CO2 emissions and expand it to include commercial vehicles to more effectively influence energy efficiency.

- Revise the annual taxation of vehicles based on their emissions through the annual car licensing renewal system.

- Implement a three-yearly test on vehicles that covers roadworthiness and exhaust emissions. The test certificate will need to be produced every three years for car licensing renewal. The test scores will be used to adjudicate a price relative to safety and emissions performance.

- Introduce car life cycle limits on the road. For instance, a car with an engine that’s covered more than 400 000km must be banned from the road, or scrapped.

- In consultation with cities, the Department of Transport will also assist with the development of regulations to ensure that freight vehicles may only enter urban hubs during off peak hour.

- Introducing ‘no-car zones’, with most of the central business districts being closed off for car use, and emphasising walking and cycling as the preferred mode of transport, allowing significant areas of urban real estate currently used for parking to be repurposed for use in affordable inner-city housing and businesses.

- Develop a regulatory policy on congestion charges in cities.

- An extensive network of cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways to re-orient South Africa’s towns and cities away from cars towards people.

- Long-distance freight will be restricted to rail, with the development of “Green Corridors” in the road network to promote the use of cleaner efficient technologies in our Freight industry.

Encouraging a shift to electric vehicles

Although not elaborated upon, the department also wants to tax new vehicles according to the fuel they use, in the process relaxing the taxes associated with ‘green’ vehicles with the aim of making them more affordable than petrol or diesel vehicles, although that is certainly not going to happen before batteries become significantly more affordable - something industry analysts believe could happen by the mid-2020s.

Furthermore, the department plans to offer car manufacturers incentives to build and sell more affordable electric vehicles, for both local consumption and export.

Government also promises to work with the private sector to expand the number of electric charging stations powered by renewable energy sources.

Finally government also plans to set an example by procuring more energy efficient vehicles.

Improving public transport

With regard to improving public transport, the Green Transport Strategy recommends a “significant expansion” of the Bus Rapid Transit systems in large cities, while also improving security, reliability and frequency.

Furthermore, an intelligent transport system should be developed, where all public transport including the minibus industry can be monitored by metropolitan control centres through GPS, GIS and loT connectivity. The intelligent transport system will provide information to the public about congestion, stations available, transport options, as well as arrival/departure times throughout South
Also proposed is a single ticketing system, where commuters can use smart tags as the payment mechanism.

You can view the full report here.

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