Johannesburg - The new deal on e-tolls effectively offers everybody the e-tag discount, but doesn’t get motorists out of paying their bills.
On Wednesday Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that “a single, reduced tariff will apply to all motorists” within the vehicle class whether they have e-tags or not, which meant “the current standard tariff of 58c per kilometre for light motor vehicles will be reduced to 30c per kilometre”.
All motorists will be charged the existing e-tag rate, whether they have e-tags or not.
The 58c/km rate has been the “standard rate” for light motor vehicles since 2013, and those who have e-tags have had the discount tariff of 30c/km since then.
The good news for the frequent users is that the monthly cap has been cut, which for light motor vehicles is from R450 a month to R225.
Details for heavy vehicles were not available at the time of publication.
The motorists who have refused to pay and have run up massive e-toll bills since the gantries were switched on in December 2013 will have to pay their bills, at the e-tag rates.
“E-toll fees that are currently outstanding will be discounted by 60 percent,” Ramaphosa said, giving defaulters six months to pay up.
That effectively removes the punitive rate but still charges for tolls, as the existing tariffs added that 60 percent onto the unpaid bills.
LINKED TO MOTOR VEHICLE LICENCE RENEWALS
Those who don’t pay, will soon find that the law is updated to block the reissuing of vehicle licences to those with e-toll arrears.
“Settlement of e-toll fees will be linked to motor vehicle licence renewals; motorists will need to settle any outstanding e-toll fees before vehicle licence discs are issued,” Ramaphosa pointed out.
His proposal, announced on Wednesday, aims to simplify the e-toll tariffs on Gauteng’s freeways and to send part of the bill to the government.
“This new dispensation presents an opportunity for a fresh start,” Ramaphosa said, adding that it would take two to three months to implement.
The discount would result in a shortfall of about R390 million a year to service Sanral’s debt, a shortfall that would be shared between the national and Gauteng governments, he explained.
But the early indications are that it won’t end the e-toll wars.
Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli called the plan a “win-win for both road users and Sanral”, adding that it affirmed the user-pays principle as the major funding method, which ensured equity and efficiency.
“We welcome the decision and hope that the matter is now laid to rest, so that we can focus all our energies on executing our mandate to the benefit of all South Africans,” Alli said.
But the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance was unimpressed.
“While the government says they have lowered the tariffs, effectively they have not. They have merely removed the punitive tariff,” Outa’s Wayne Duvenage said.
“The reduced cap from R450 to R225 per month only applies to less than 10 percent of motorists, as more than 90 percent of users would not have exceeded that cap in the past anyway.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters rejected the new e-tolls tariff structure outright.
Spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said on Wednesday: ”The EFF rejects the idea that our people must pay for usage of public roads. No one must make profit out of our roads as it borders on the infringement of the freedom of movement”
”The most important outcome that South Africans wanted to hear is not a reduction of the costs of e-tolls, but the total eradication of e-tolls and their fees.”
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry was cautiously welcoming of the apparent cuts, but was awaiting more details.
“It’s a big improvement,” Sacci acting chief executive Peggy Drodskie said.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane criticised the plans to catch e-toll defaulters through vehicle licence renewals and the lack of amnesty for those in arrears, and said the system was collapsing.
“E-toll payments have dropped from R120 million in June 2014 to R45 million in January this year, while Sanral’s monthly cost recovery targets have risen from R108 million to R204 million over the same period,” Maimane pointed out. He promised to continue the anti-e-toll fight in Parliament.
Ramaphosa’s announcement followed years of anger over e-tolls.
The Star, ANA