Gautengs 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan indicates that the user-pay principal will be implemented for all new major road projects. File photo: Timothy Bernard
Gautengs 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan indicates that the user-pay principal will be implemented for all new major road projects. File photo: Timothy Bernard

E-tolls are only the beginning

By Thabiso Thakali and Lee-Anne Alfreds Time of article published Jun 8, 2013

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Johannesburg - All major roads in Gauteng could be tolled if the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) court case is unsuccessful. Gauteng’s 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan indicates that the user-pay principal will be implemented for all new major road projects.

 And if the alliance’s court case is unsuccessful this provincial transport plan will be cast in stone.

The proposals to impose more tolls on Gauteng’s highways to fund road infrastructure expansion are said to be contained in the Gauteng 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan report, which is due to be released in July.

Sources who have seen the preliminary report told the Saturday Star this week that the broad transport master plan advocated for the adoption of the “user-pay” principle as funding instrument as the government also sought to improve public transport.

“Faced with the necessity to generate new funds for infrastructure this demonstrates that the government is being innovative in its thinking,” said a source with knowledge of the province’s transport plans.

“Tolls are likely to provide only a minority of the funding that would be necessary, with the majority coming from central government and local partners.”

Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi defended the “user-pay” principle which brought about e-tolling during his post-budget vote briefing this week, saying it was “a universally established, fair and equitable” way of funding roads expansion.

“Nothing is for mahala,” he said. “People who use the improved highway on a daily basis must pay for it. Those who don’t want to pay will use the alternate routes.”

The Five Year Gauteng Transport Implementation Plan, which was released last year and forms part of the 25-year plan, suggested that private funding could be used to design, build, operate and maintain new transport infrastructure.

The plan also stated that the “user-pay” principle was considered a more sustainable funding instrument.

“Continual pressure should be maintained to ensure fair and equitable delivery of services through “user-pay” policies,” it said. It also recommended the improvement of public transport “including rail, buses and cycling”.

The alliance’s chairman Wayne Duvenage said in the absence of reliable, safe and efficient public transport, road users would continue to be captive to the main urban highways and an easy target for the preying eyes of monopolies like the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

He said given the current e-toll discussion, “we should expect these long-term strategic documents to be reviewed accordingly”.

“There is no doubt that the outcome of the Outa legal battle will also have an influence on Gauteng’s five-year plan, in that greater consideration needs to be given to other efficient funding mechanisms for transport infrastructure, be it from the national or regional treasuries, fuel levies or shadow tolling,” he said.

“Of greatest importance is that the intended outcomes of integrated transport plans must be focused on delivering a solution that is in the best interest of the people they intend to serve, failing which the end product may well be a disaster.”

Cosatu Gauteng chairman Phutas Tseki said the Gauteng transport plans were “diluted” by the current state of affairs on e-tolling where the government took one step backward.

“The priorities of the working class are not being looked at,” he said. “We are against the user-pay principle for as long as there is no real alternative for the working class, who will suffer so much from the tolls.”

Transport expert Dr Vaughn Mostert said the debate on “user-pay” principle could “go to lengths”, but what was lacking was the promise to fix public transport.

Meanwhile, yesterday Sanral said it “welcomed” the DA’s announcement that it would donate R1 million to the alliance so it could continue the legal battle against e-tolls.

“The fact that Outa will be able to face us in court is important. We believe we have a strong legal case...,” Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said, but then accused Outa of being an arm of the DA.

Duvenage, meanwhile, said yesterday his phone had not stopped beeping since last night, signalling SMSes from his bank informing him of money flowing into the organisation’s bank account.

He said he was astounded by the amount of money donated after he appealed on Wednesday for R1 million to enable it to take its e-tolling case to the Supreme Court of Appeal in September. He said he initially thought only R120 000 had been donated until his phone started beeping with SMS notifications on Thursday night and did not stop for 45 minutes. He was astounded to realise R540 000 had been donated.

This included R75 000 from one company, R50 000 from a few other firms and R10 000 from a union. He said some families had also donated R1 000. But Duvenage said he was most moved by small donations of R20 and R50 from people who could ill afford it. – Additional Reporting by Sapa.

Saturday Star

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