Bad idea to use license discs for e-toll collection: Outa

Responding to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement regarding the future of E-tolls in Gauteng today (20 May 2015), the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said it was disappointed to hear that government has chosen to hold on to the scheme.

As part of the announcement, Ramaphosa revealed that government intends to link “compliance” to the vehicle registration system.

Road users who have not paid up their e-tolls would not be able to renew their car license discs.

“While he government may think they have resolved their enforcement of the unjust system by linking the payment of e-tolls to the renewal of vehicle licenses, they have overlooked the many other unintended consequences that will arise out of this decision,” Outa argued.

In particualar, Outa said it believes governments decisions will:

  • Cause a whole new illegal license disc and number plate industry in South Africa to spawn,
  • Force many road users to drive unlicensed vehicles,
  • Result in cars being licensed in other provinces, and
  • Reduced license revenues for the region.

“There is also bound to be a legal challenge mounted against this decision,” Outa predicted.

Most motorists save nothing

The organisation went on to state that even though government says it has lowered the tariffs, effectively they have not.

“They have merely removed the punitive tariff, which no-one was paying anyway and if the public were to pay in the past, they would have purchased an e-tag for the same rate of 30c per kilometre,” said Outa.

It added that the reduced cap for light vehicles from R450 to R225 per month appeals to less that 10% of motorists, since over 90% of users would not have exceeded that cap in the past anyway.

Outa believes that reducing the outstanding bills by 60% is a carrot the public will not fall for.

There are also a number of issues that make E-tolls unjustifiable which were not addressed, Outa said. The organisation’s grievances are reproduced in full below:

  • The expensive contracts with ETC (Kapsch TrafficCom) remain unchanged and in place. The lower tariffs effectively push up the costs of collection as a percentage of revenue generated to an unacceptable level. For as long as the collection costs related to the Kapsch TrafficCom contracts remain in place, society cannot be expected to support the scheme.
  • The scheme was initially introduced on the back of a meaningless public engagement process, in contravention of Section 195 of the constitution of South Africa.
  • The odious debt related to the construction company collusion costs are estimated to be around R7,1 billion. Until this money is recovered from the construction companies, and all who profiteered unduly during the construction process, society cannot be expected to pay for this debt.
  • The public also have very little option but to use road based transport in Gauteng, due to a dismal public transport alternative which is virtually incapable of serving the needs of the current road users in the province.
  • The onerous conditions related to the scheme and all its related inefficiencies and cumbersome processes have not been addressed and for this reason it remains largely unworkable.

“Outa would like to remind the public that a 10c increase in the fuel levy back in 2007, to cover the GFIP project, would have resulted in the capital costs of this project being settled by today,” the organisation said.

It went on to argue that decisions by the authorities regarding E-tolls have never truly involved the public or society’s desires.

“At every engagement intervention, since the GFIP Steering Committee of 2011, the Inter Ministerial Committee of 2012 and the Makhura e-toll Advisory Panel of 2014, the overwhelming majority of submissions have been an outright rejection of the scheme,” said Outa.

Nothing will change, and it added that it believes that any attempt to enforce the matter will be met the strongest resistance by the people.

“This decision will also have a profound impact on the ruling party in the forthcoming Local elections in 2016,” Outa said.

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Bad idea to use license discs for e-toll collection: Outa