File photo: Catherine Rice

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has described the process used to implement the toll roads project as “entirely irrational”. It approached the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday to have the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (Sanral’s) proposal to toll portions of the N1 and N2 highways scrapped.

Arguing for the City, Geoff Budlender SC told the court the decision makers had to consider if tolling was appropriate and viable. In order to do this, they would need to know the costs and the impacts of tolling. But, he said “the evidence shows that none of the decision makers considered these questions”.

In lengthy papers of 7465 pages, the City details why it believes the decision to proceed with tolling was “procedurally flawed”.

Over the 30 year concession period, the public will have to “pay between R44.9 billion and R48.4 billion in toll fees (2010 values excluding vat)”.

And, Budlender argued that if the tolls are set at a lower rate, Sanral would have to pay the shortfall to Protea Parkway Constortium (PPC) – the developer.

He told the court that Capetonians would have to pay 74c per km at 2013 values, nearly three times the rates that Gauteng toll road users pay.

Budlender said none of this information was available to the decision makers, yet “we now know the real cost (of the project) would be R58,9 billion.”

Speaking outside court, City Mayor Patricia de Lille said it was only because of a Supreme Court of Appeal decision last year that these figures were made public.

She said the project will affect poor people living alongside the N1 and N2, and would also impact on the agriculture and manufacturing industries which rely on the roads for goods transportation.

Budlender told the court that the Sanral Board should have made the decision in accordance with the Sanral Act, but there was no evidence to suggest they did this as no minutes or documents recorded the decision.

Instead, he inferred that Sanral CEO Nazir Alli made a rogue decision as “a board can’t make a decision passively, through osmosis.”

He also argued that the environment minister gave authorisation for the project to go ahead after “considering only the biophysical aspects of the proposal. He [environment minister] did not consider the socio-economic impact of the manner in which the road would be upgraded and used.”

The case has been set down for the rest of the week, with arguments for the City expected to continue on Wednesday.

ANA