Nationwide toll roads a necessity: transport minister

The envisaged national transport master plan will include proposals for tolling South African roads, Transport Minister Ben Martins said on Tuesday.

Introducing debate on the transport budget vote in the National Assembly, Martins said it was impossible for the fiscus to fund the road infrastrucutre backlog.

“The department is in the process of finalising the national transport master plan (Natmap) before it is submitted to Cabinet,” he said.

The Natmap is a long-term plan to roll out infrastructure for the country’s social and economic development.

“The alignment between the Natmap and the National Development Plan, which sets out critical national policy goals to be achieved by 2030, includes implementing the user pay principle in a manner that does not have a crushing effect on the working class and the poor,” said Martins.

Democratic Alliance MP Ian Ollis dismissed Martins’ assertions on the need for e-tolls, saying funding models for a number of key infrastructure investments was “hopelessly wrong”.

“The Sanral misleads us by stating that the road maintenance backlog is about R149 billion, which means that we have to have many new toll roads across the country,” Ollis said.

He said the SA National Roads Agency Ltd‘s arguments did not make sense.

“If you look at the annual budget documents supplied by Treasury and the annual audits supplied by the auditor-general, you can clearly see that between 2003 and 2008, an average of more than R21bn was brought in from the fuel levy (per year), while only an average of R7.4bn was spent on the roads,” Ollis said.

He questioned what happened to the rest of the money.

“If you approximate R14bn per annum from 1994, until around 2010, that gives an approximate R238 billion of fuel levy money misused by this government… government spent the money and now pretends that we have to pay tolls to afford our roads,” said Ollis.

Sanral’s budget for the 2013/14 year was R3.4bn for current operations and R7bn for capital infrastructure.

The roads agency is responsible for maintenance of around 17,000 kilometres of the country’s roads network of 750,000 km.

Around 17 percent of the road network is tolled.

The introduction of toll roads in Gauteng had sparked widespread protests with even ANC alliance partner the Congress of SA Trade Unions opposing the move.

Last week, the City of Cape Town won a high court bid for an interim interdict against the proposed tolling of the N2 and N1 highways, pending a review of Sanral’s decision to implement the project.

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Nationwide toll roads a necessity: transport minister