Minister refusing to scrap e-tolls, but there are other solutions, AA says
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Johannesburg - The Department of Transport is completely out of touch with the sentiments of Gauteng motorists, the Automobile Association said. This comes after Transport Minister Fikile Mbulala last week reiterated that the e-tolling system could not be scrapped, the Citizen newspaper reported.
However, the Minister did hint that a solution was being sought, stating that the funding model that we have employed as a country for our roads is affected by our attitude towards e-tolls. “But we are working on that, and an e-toll solution will be found,” Mbulala said.
However his comments, as quoted by the Citizen, have come under fire by the AA. Suggesting that road funding and maintenance is an either/or situation based solely on e-tolls is misleading, the association said, as there are other options available.
“Scrapping of e-tolls should not, in our view, result in a lack of maintenance and development on the Gauteng freeway, it just means alternative sources of funding must be sought,” the AA said.
The association says its research showed clearly that the overwhelming majority of Gauteng motorists would never pay e-tolls under any circumstances, and therefore the system needs to be scrapped.
But what are the alternative solutions?
“We have also called for the ring-fencing of a portion of the existing General Fuel Levy to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project as a more sustainable funding mechanism for e-tolls,” the AA said.
The association also expressed concern that no formal decision on the way forward for the e-toll system had been communicated to the public. Back in 2019, just before the election, Sanral announced that it would suspend the process of pursuing historical debt owed to it.
“Not since 2019, months before the election, when Sanral announced it would suspend the process of pursuing historical debt owed to it has anything been officially communicated about the future e-tolls. The Cabinet has an obligation to inform the public on what the future of this system is, and it should do so sooner rather than later,” the AA said.
Why are we wasting money on the Gautrain?
The association further stated that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project should be seen in the greater context of transport challenges in the province, and democratisation of transport for the benefit of all, not just of private vehicles, which is currently not the case. It said Gauteng motorists are being saddled with a financial burden to maintain a major route but other transport needs are not being met.
The association also noted the costs associated with the Gautrain, which only services the transport needs of a minority of citizens.
“In 2020, the Gauteng Transport Department paid R1.9bn to Bombela, the private company operating the Gautrain as part of the so-called Patronage Guarantee; the Patronage Guarantee is paid to Bombela by the provincial government if ridership levels on the Gautrain fall below set levels,” the AA said.
“In 2020 the Gauteng Transport budget was R7.7bn so the money paid to Bombela consumed fully 25% of the province’s transport budget. Surely this money will be better spent on servicing projects such as the GFIP which carries more people daily than the Gautrain?”