If e-tolls in Gauteng were scrapped Sanral would need to delay maintenance of old road networks and abort all road expansion projects, the transport department said on Tuesday.
“This approach will be disastrous for road users throughout South Africa, and thus for the economy,” acting director general of transport Mawethu Vilana told the e-toll review panel in Pretoria.
This would affect people’s ability to get around, and the economy, he said.
The panel was appointed by Gauteng premier David Makhura to examine the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and the electronic tolling system put in place to fund it.
Vilana explained that all the money collected by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) was reinvested in toll roads.
He emphasised that the agency did not profit from the tolls.
He said the concept of “direct user-pay” was being used effectively in other countries around the world.
In his presentation, Vilana indicated that government consulted with the public prior to the system being implemented.
The transport minister announced the project on October 8, 2007. Several days later, notices of intent were published in the Government Gazette and six national newspapers. The public was given until November 14, 2007 to make representations, said Vilana.
Sanral faced numerous court battles from groups calling for the tolls to be scrapped. The system was eventually switched on in December last year.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said she hoped the panel would be able to quash the myths, lies, and false perceptions about the system. She said talks of upgrading the province’s roads began in 1996, two years before the establishment of Sanral which was later given the task of upgrading the roads.
She said motorists had little option but to pay the tolls as there was a debt that needed to be settled.
“This project… is not the perfect solution but doing nothing was not an option,” said Peters.
A fuel levy was not a desirable alternative of funding the GFIP as this would result in an increase in the fuel price of around R3.65 per litre, she said.
The transport department and Sanral would continue making their submissions to the panel until Thursday.
The panel was expected to present its findings to Makhura at the end of the month.