The Tollgate Action Group (TAG) will push ahead with a court case to have Gauteng's e-tolls declared unconstitutional. File picture: Karen Sandison
The Tollgate Action Group (TAG) will push ahead with a court case to have Gauteng's e-tolls declared unconstitutional. File picture: Karen Sandison
Mac Maharaj is the special envoy and spokesman of President Jacob Zuma.
Mac Maharaj is the special envoy and spokesman of President Jacob Zuma.

Gauteng motorists who are unhappy about the new e-tolling should be aware of some inportant facts, writes Mac Maharaj.

Johannesburg - In October, the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Act, 2013 came into operation to facilitate the collection of tolls and the implementation of the electronic toll collection system on Gauteng roads.

President Zuma signed the bill into law on September 21. The tolling, like all other measures that add to the existing financial commitments of consumers, has been met with some uneasiness and unhappiness.

However, there’s some important consumer information that should have been in the public domain, but wasn’t or not visibly. One is that workers travelling in buses and taxis are exempted from e-tolls. These modes of transport pass through the gantries free of charge.

Transport services in South Africa are ably supported by the minibus taxi industry, which ferries about 60 percent of the population in Gauteng daily. They form an integral part of the integrated transport system value chain.

Secondly, the Gauteng government has upgraded alternative roads to assist those not wanting to use the tolled roads.

Thirdly, there is a much broader infrastructure plan, emphasising rail as the backbone to assist commuters even further.

The project has come a long way. The South African National Roads Agency first submitted its Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project proposal to the government in 2006. Gauteng, which generates nearly 38 percent of the value of South Africa’s economic activities, has developed beyond its infrastructural capabilities with roads in general unable to keep up with increasing traffic demands.

This affected road users and the economy by the daunting peak-hour traffic periods each morning and evening, leading to limited family and leisure time and decreased productivity as employees lose productive hours because they’re negotiating traffic.

After consultation and a lot of work, the proposal was accepted by Cabinet in mid-2007.

The road agency advertised the details of the project, its intent to toll, the proposed toll points and expected toll tariffs.

The public was given the opportunity to comment in 2007 by the democratic administration led by President Thabo Mbeki. The rationale was outlined.

After Cabinet approval, Sanral upgraded the roads at a cost of R20 billion. The funding for these improvements was sourced by Sanral through the sale of monthly bonds. These bonds are to be repaid over 24 years.

Government has adopted the “user pay” principle to enable the speedy and efficient delivery of transport infrastructure.

The president signed the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law to ensure that South Africa was able to meet its financial commitments to the investors.

The Gauteng government has outlined the roads that have been upgraded and provide alternatives. These include the following:

* The R55 that runs parallel to the N1 from Woodmead, Sunderland Ridge, Laudium and Pretoria West. It also links well with the Mabopane Freeway. This is a high quality, dual carriage road and it is not tolled.

* The M1 between Woodmead Drive and Corlett Drive was upgraded at a cost of R86 million into four lanes, thereby easing traffic on the busiest section of the Gauteng freeway network.

* For motorists travelling from the south of Joburg, the R82 – the old Vereeniging Road – has being developed into a dual carriageway between Eikenhof and Walkerville.

* The N12 near Lenasia/Eldorado Park has been widened into three lanes each way and the Golden Highway has been rehabilitated.

* The N14 is a busy route from Pretoria to Roodepoort/Mogale City. The section between Potgieter Street in Pretoria and the Brakfontein Interchange in Centurion has been widened from two to three lanes at a cost of R115m. The sinkhole at Jean Avenue in Centurion has been repaired at a cost of R59m.

* The R25 between Kempton Park and Bronkhorstspruit has been rehabilitated.

In addition, as part of the massive infrastructure programme, the government is determined to make rail transport the backbone of public transport in Gauteng.

The R30 billion Gautrain project is now fully functional and carries over 1.2 million passengers a month. Its feeder bus system transports 350 000 passengers monthly.

The Gautrain is a reliable, safe and affordable mode of transport that compares favourably with the world’s best.

The Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (Prasa) is to spend over R120bn over the next 10 years to buy new trains. A total of 2 800 trains will be delivered next year in Gauteng.

Joburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni all have detailed plans to roll out Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems that will cost about R10bn in these cities.

Phase 1A of the Rea Vaya is fully operational and carries 40 000 passengers daily. Phase 1B has been operational since October 14 and the BRT in Pretoria central is scheduled for operation from April.

In Gauteng, R1.7bn is allocated in bus subsidies so as to keep passenger fares down.

All this is part of ongoing work to develop world-class infrastructure that will improve the lives of the people while also boosting economic growth and development in the country.

* Mac Maharaj is the special envoy and spokesman of President Jacob Zuma.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.