Urban e-tolling was to be extended to KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of the country, South Africa’s national roads boss said in Durban last night, while lashing out at opponents of the much-criticised system.
“I’m sure the people who use the roads regularly here who go through Mariannhill Plaza would not like to have to stop in a queue and waste petrol,” said Nazir Alli, chief executive of the South African National Roads Agency.
“We are reducing the overall impact by introducing an electronic method of collection.”
Speaking at the Progressive Professionals Forum’s infrastructure development symposium, Alli said Sanral planned to introduce the system throughout the country.
“It is our intention to introduce this method of collection at all our plazas; e-tolling is just a matter of collecting money, it is not the principle of tolling.”
Alli declined to say when e-tolling would be implemented in KZN but said it would make sense to first roll it out on the N1 between Joburg and Cape Town.
He added that the argument that the fuel levy should pay for infrastructure was “inequitable” and wearing thin with the technological advancement of hybrid and electric cars.
But e-tolling would not mean there would be new toll roads in the province without legally required public consultation processes, he said.
“Before we toll a particular road there is a whole process we have to follow,” he said.
“We have to do an economic impact study, a social impact study and an environmental impact and each one of them involves a consultation process,” he said.
Alli said Sanral was required to consult with every municipality and province through which a proposed toll road traversed.
“It would be illegal for us not to do that so they already have a say in this thing,” he said.
“It’s not something that we wake up in the morning and decide that we are going to do.”
Alli lashed out at the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and its court challenges against e-tolling, saying existing legislation already enshrined the “user pay” policy for infrastructure development.
He also criticised the media for allowing the organisation to be heard, saying it had lost its battle in the Constitutional Court and taken R1 million from the DA to fund its legal fees.
“Outa is a surrogate for a political party. They have lost three court cases but the media still gives these guys credibility. Is it because they sell newspapers?” he asked.
“They are not showing any respect for the judgment that has come out there so why are we giving them that credibility? Who is Outa?
“They have questioned the integrity of our judges and showed a lack of respect for our democracy.”
Outa spokesman John Clarke said e-tolling legislation should be debated by provincial legislatures, local municipalities and wherever there were users who would be expected to pay when it was rolled out. “Besides the Western Cape legislature, all parties in the KZN legislature have opposed further tolling of KZN roads – e-toll or otherwise.”
Clarke said Sanral had failed to properly consult and obtain public acceptance of the e-tolling system, which had failed elsewhere in the world.
“London, Stockholm and Singapore are the only places it has worked.
“Our concern is they are using the e-tolls to fund an upgrade of an existing freeway rather than using it to fund public transport.”
Clarke said it was “convenient” for Alli to view Outa as a “surrogate” but opposition had come from a wide spectrum of society, including the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, the FF and Cosatu’s suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
FIGHT AGAINST LAW
According to Sanral, South Africa has 153 000km of paved roads of which 3128km are tolled, while e-tolling applied to 201km.
Sanral is responsible for more than 19 700km of road.
Meanwhile, judgment was reserved in the Cape High Court on Wednesday after the DA launched an application against President Jacob Zuma, Sanral, and four others to have the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill declared unconstitutional and invalid because it was not passed through Parliament with input from the provinces.
Sanral argued that the amendments, which allowed for the collection of electronically recorded tolls and the electronic payment collection system, were “extremely small”.
It argued that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project and “a blunter system” of e-tolling could have been implemented without the amendments.