e-tolling for other regions eventually
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Motorists outside Gauteng can breathe easy for now - there are no immediate plans to roll out the e-tolling system across the country.
The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has revealed that this plan would eventually be rolled out to other provinces - including KwaZulu-Natal - but no time limits had been set.
Without being specific, agency spokeswoman Priya Pillay said this roll-out to other parts of the country would happen "over some years".
However, this system would not replace the existing toll scheme, but would be an alternative system of payment.
The tolling system, to be implemented on highways in Gauteng in July, has already drawn criticism from road users and concerned organisations. They say motorists who frequently travel on freeways in Gauteng will now be paying a lot more.
The system has outraged motorists, who believe they will be forced either to fork out thousands more a year for travel, or move closer to work.
Sanral has made it clear that there will be no escape for motorists trying to dodge paying the new toll fees.
The agency is expected to earn more than R300-million a month just from the 145 000 to 200 000 motorists who travel between Pretoria and Jo'burg every month.
According to the scheme, motorists who buy a special electronic tag (e-tag) would pay 44c a kilometre and motorists who don't would pay 66c a kilometre, Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli said.
"People have choices. They don't have to use the toll roads, but then they must expect huge delays on roads and an increase in vehicle maintenance," he said.
The money to build the new roads had come from a R20 billion loan, which had to be paid back over 30 years, he said.
Sanral had been forced to go the toll road route because it could not borrow the money from the government, since it did not have the money to lend, he said.
"The congestion on Gauteng roads costs the economy R15m an hour, which was one of the driving factors for the tolls and the new and improved roads," he said.
The AA's Gary Ronald said toll fees would be a substantial burden on consumers, particularly in light of rising petrol costs. "We expect another fuel increase at the end of the month in the region of 35c a litre.
"If you factor that in with the e-toll and the fact that there is no light at the end of the tunnel regarding a possible drop in price, people are going to be in trouble," he said.
"A person who lives in Pretoria and works in Jo'burg will have to find an extra R10 000 to R12 000 a year to cover these costs."
Rob Handfield-Jones, managing director of driving.co.za, has been trying to raise awareness about the "scam" of e-tolling for more than two years, believing the system would financially cripple the average middle-class family and force people to move closer to work.
"This is a form of social engineering. It may not be politically based like it was during apartheid, but it is financial. "Roads have never been a profit-making enterprise before. (Authorities) will be financially strangling this province… It's a double tax - we will be paying for our roads through taxes, through this e-toll and again with all the inflation that will come with it."
Handfield-Jones said the only way to fight the e-toll system would be for people to take Sanral to the Constitutional Court and challenge 1999 legislation that states that the CEO of Sanral can make any road a national road if he chooses.
"We need to say this is stopping our freedom of movement," Handfield-Jones said.
SA National Taxi Council spokesman, Philip Taaibosch, said they hoped Sanral would offer the taxi industry indemnity. "We will be forced to increase our fares," he said. -Staff reporter, Daily News.