Confusion over Minister’s stance on e-toll review panel

The Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) group said on Tuesday it was confused by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters’ stance on the e-tolls review.

The Star newspaper reported that during a radio interview on Monday, Peters said there would be no review of the user-pays principle.

She claimed that Gauteng premier David Makhura had told her the panel would do an economic analysis of the whole Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, and not the tolls.

“But unfortunately for me, that panel seems to have taken a life of its own,” Peters was quoted as saying.

Presentations on the e-tolls have been submitted by different parties with a view to get the system scrapped.

“This essentially means that following premier Makhura’s reference to his panel initiative as having received the support of the ANC, and the government at his media briefing on July 10, 2014, his efforts must now be considered a waste of time,” said Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage.

Outa said while the premier may lack political authority to scrap the tolls, the provincial economy would determine its viability.

“If the economics of e-tolling are not right, the mustering of all the executive powers will be a futile exercise,” said John Clarke, joint spokesman of Outa.

“The ruling party in Cabinet and National Assembly would have more chance of successfully repealing the law of gravity than for e-tolling to work, because the economics of it simply makes no sense and the majority of people are having nothing to do with it.”

He said having the gantry lights on did not mean the system was working.

The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), however said the benefits of e-tolling were being ignored.

Spokesman Vusi Mona said that among the benefits was increased road safety, and a decrease in congestion and travel times which had resulted in the added benefit of cost saving for companies and individuals who are now able to spend more time at work.

“There are cost saving, technological and fiscal benefits which led us to believe that tolling remains the best and most sustainable way to pay for the upgrading and maintenance of this national road.”

He said it was regrettable that the ongoing dispute about the system had halted further upgrades to the network, which would eventually negate the benefits.

“We don’t want to be scaremongers, but the reality is traffic volumes are again building up and we are fast approaching unsustainable congestion levels which will cost the Gauteng economy,” said Mona.

In 2012, TomTom SA Traffic Index showed that the upgrading of Gauteng highways had led to considerable easing of congestion.

“However the latest index, released in 2013, shows that Johannesburg is again the most congested city in South Africa and the 20th most congested in the world,” said Mona, adding that this was as a result of the delays in the further upgrades.

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Confusion over Minister’s stance on e-toll review panel