The government's announcement of e-tolling rates on Friday was arrogant, with consultations amounting to rubber-stamping, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said. File photo: Timothy Bernard

Pretoria -

The government's announcement of e-tolling rates on Friday was arrogant, with consultations amounting to rubber-stamping, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said.

“The government's arrogance over the e-tolling debacle continues to astound,” Outa spokesman Rob Handfield-Jones said in a statement.

The electronic tolling of Gauteng's freeways would cost motorists with e-tags 30c/km, down from the 40c/km decided on last year, SA National Roads Agency toll and traffic manager Alex van Niekerk told reporters in Pretoria.

Transport department director general George Mahlalela said all parties had been consulted, except for the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and Outa.

Handfield-Jones criticised Mahlalela for being disingenuous and noted that Outa and Cosatu had been the most vocal critics of e-tolling.

“In other words, the government has consulted only those who support its case. There is a word for such behaviour:

rubber-stamping,” Handfield-Jones said.

Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage criticised the government for announcing that e-tolling would go ahead, with tariffs to be reviewed at the end of the month.

“In addition, despite the perception that government would like to create, today's gazetted tariffs are no different to those published, and subsequently withdrawn, earlier this year,” Duvenhage said.

Business Unity SA (Busa) welcomed the 30-day consultative process that would follow the gazetting.

“It is important to use the time available to ensure that confidence is built in the final decisions before they are implemented.”

Busa noted there would be further opportunities to consider the decision-making process during the high court review scheduled to start on November 26.

The e-tolling project's terms and conditions were gazetted on Friday.

“This marks the beginning of a 30-day period for public comment. Government will, at the end of the 30 days, having considered the views of the public, publish final tariffs,” Transport Minister Ben Martins said.

After the public consultation, 14 days would be set aside for Martins to “apply his mind”, and another 14 days for the gazetting of the final tariffs. This would mean e-tolls could come into effect four days before Christmas.

However, Van Niekerk would not give a specific date.

Martins said the tariffs announced on Friday were not final, because of the consultation process.

“And it's also not correct to state that the fees that have been articulated are carved in stone.”

Van Niekerk said the current tariffs were calculated taking the Treasury's contribution into consideration. The cost of e-tolling collection was included in the tariffs.

“We've previously indicted that the cost of collection, if you calculate it over the life cycle of the project, taking into consideration all costs associated with the project, it is about 17 percent of compliant toll transactions,” Van Niekerk said.

The e-tag tariff for motorcycles had been dropped from 24c/km to 18c/km, for medium heavy vehicles (Class B) from R1/km to 75c/km, and heavy vehicles (Class C) from R2/km to R1.50/km.

Martins said the government had proposed that toll fees for e-tag users be capped at R550 a month for light vehicles.

According to Sanral's calculations, only 0.2 percent of e-tag users would pay this amount.

Van Niekerk said those exempted from paying e-toll fees included valid public transport vehicles and emergency vehicles. The process would also allow for applications by motorists for exemptions, such as quadriplegics who needed someone to drive them around.

The Democratic Alliance said it was disappointed that the system was going ahead.

“The gazetted amounts are not lower than those announced earlier this year, and the monthly caps can easily be raised later once the system is implemented,” DA MP Neil Campbell said in a statement.

The Freedom Front Plus said it would lay a complaint against Sanral with the Consumer Commission about the higher tariffs which road users without e-tags would have to pay.

“This difference in tariff creates unfair discrimination and illegally forces road users to register for the e-tags service. This type of action is prohibited by the Consumer Protection Act,” FF Plus MP Anton Alberts said.

The Justice Project SA said the consultations that took place before the gazetting were “window dressing”.

“There is nothing to suggest that the latest round 1/8of consultation 3/8 will be any different,” national chairman Howard Dembovsky said. - Sapa