File picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Johannesburg - Documents on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project are publicly available should the panel reviewing the e-tolls wish to peruse them, Sanral said on Thursday.

The documents answered questions about how the project was conceived, the role played by the Gauteng provincial government, why it was decided to go the e-toll route, the advantages of upgrading the highways, and steps taken to favour the poor, SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) spokesman Vusi Mona said in a statement.

He said the documents had been in the public domain for years.

“The roads agency is of the opinion that its participation in the review process would be inappropriate as the matter had been decided in relevant structures Ä the Cabinet approved the matter in 2007,” said Mona.

“The fact that we have exempted public transport, including taxis that are registered, from all toll fees, demonstrates our concerns about the rising cost of living among the poor, who predominantly use public transport,” Mona said.

He said open-road tolling was only introduced after comprehensive studies by respected economists pointed to the negative effect of traffic congestion on economic activity.

A clear case was made to improve the quality of the highway network in the province and to address the impact of congestion, wasted fuel, travel times, and productivity.

“We took a long-term perspective and also considered the consequences for the economy and its ability to create jobs and growth opportunities should the road infrastructure not have been addressed,” Mona said.