Government plans to cut train funding to bail out failing e-tolls

Government has proposed a bill to reallocate funds meant to aid the struggling Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to bail out Sanral’s failing e-toll system, the City Press reports.

Prasa controls the major Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl rail systems, which both cater to poor urban commuters and are in dire need of improvement.

The Department of Transport plans to divert R2 billion meant for the improvement of these rail systems to aid Sanral, which has been struggling with non-payment of e-tolls.

R3 billion was reallocated to from Prasa to Sanral last year, further hindering the improvement of the country’s passenger rail systems.

Only around 30% of motorists are paying their e-tolls, and this has reportedly left a gaping hole in the road agency’s balance sheet.

Transport economist Joachim Vermooten told Rapport that it was imperative the government allocate funds towards Prasa and rebuild the rail agency instead of bail out Sanral’s e-toll system.

“There is no reason why we cannot have a world-class railway network,” Vermooten said.

The bill has not yet been finalised and will be examined by a committee led by National Treasury, the report stated.

Scrapping e-tolls

President Ramaphosa has not yet confirmed any plan to scrap the unpopular e-toll system, which has resulted in a total debt of R11 billion incurred by South African motorists to Sanral.

In contrast, Gauteng premier David Makhura recently reiterated his department’s position on e-tolls, calling for the system to be shut down.

“Our position has not changed. We remain determined to ensure that e-tolls are not part of the future of our province,” Makhura said.

“We anxiously await the finalisation of details by national government on the mechanics of settling the debt. We are even prepared to contribute something as the provincial government to ensure the e-tolls are scrapped.”

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula also suggested that e-tolls could be scrapped, but added that the issue of the incurred debt would be a difficult one to overcome.

“It is not an easy issue that we say scrap and that is it. The fact of the matter is that people are not paying and the debt is ever-growing,” Mbalula said.

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Government plans to cut train funding to bail out failing e-tolls