South African National Roads Agency Ltd’s (Sanral) has played down concerns raised by the Democtric Alliance that the user-pays toll system currently implemented in Gauteng, could spread to other provinces.
It follows the handing over of more than 1,600km of Limpopo provincial roads to Sanral.
According to DA shadow minister of transport, Ian Ollis, the transfer of the roads is “problematic”, considering that Sanral is cash-strapped – while National Treasury has maintained that it would not allocate any further funding to the company.
“Since they (sanral) will have no access to the provincial road grants, in order to repair and maintain the additional road network assigned to it, Sanral would have to raise its own funding.”
“This raises genuine concerns that an already cash-strapped Sanral is going to be forced to pass the burden onto South Africans,” Ollis said.
General concern is that Sanral would turn to a controversial user-pays tolling mechanism similar to the Gauteng e-tolling system to raise funds to maintain roads.
Ollis noted that the DA has been fighting e-tolling in Gauteng and will do so anywhere else in the country.
The spread of e-tolling
Responding to queries regarding the possible spread of e-tolling across South Africa, Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said that the transfer of roads to Sanral does not mean such roads will be tolled.
He also argued that there is ongoing confusion around e-tolling as a system.
There is a distinction between e-tolling as it is understood as a system implemented in Gauteng (vis-a-vis the gantry system operated by ETC), and as an already-operating system used to collect toll fees across the country at conventional toll gates.
Mona explained that e-tolling is a method of payment for one’s toll fees and not a funding mechanism.
“It is simply an electronic payment method for tolls – as opposed to paying manually at a toll gate,” he said.
Mona noted that Sanral and its concessionaires are in the process of installing the electronic toll collection equipment needed at conventional toll plazas across the country.
Sanral said that the transfer of roads to Sanral does not mean such roads will be tolled.
“In the past year 2,000 km from the Eastern Cape and about 1,300 km from North West were transferred to Sanral without any imposition of tolls on those roads.”
“The funding of any new roads transferred to Sanral is a matter within the purview of National Treasury,” Mona said.
Mona added that the e-tolling system in Gauteng, while not without its challenges, was “working well”.
He said that exact financials on the system – including how much the system had managed to collect from road users – would be released anually, when they’ve been audited.
“However, we can state that we are satisfied with levels of compliance and our earnings are marginally above expectation.”
“The e-toll system is working well,” Mona said.
“The challenges currently experienced are related to the misunderstanding of the billing system by road users and the complexity of enquiries when these are made through the Customer Services points.”
“The Operator, ETC are currently putting mitigating processes in place to address the Customer Service related challenges,” Mona said.
The spokesman reiterated that current e-tag sales were sitting at “more than a million”, with no exact figure provided.