Since their inception in 2013, e-tolls have been shunned by Gauteng road users, with many refusing to pay their outstanding e-toll debt.
Decision-makers within the ANC and Sanral have moved back and forth on the idea of scrapping the system completely, but it ultimately still remains in effect.
In June 2017, the ANC highlighted that it needed e-tolls to work, as if it failed, it would cause great harm to the South African economy.
However, less than a year later, in February 2018, the ANC admitted that the e-toll system had indeed failed, and that a new model was needed.
Since then, little progress has been made when it comes to scrapping the system, with the government being split on whether to continue with the scheme or not.
Most recently, the Electronic Tolling Company (ETC) proposed a system that would see users’ existing e-toll debt wiped clean if they paid their e-tolls going forward.
The method would see 20% of the road users’ previous e-toll debt paid off for each year that they pay their new e-tolls – meaning that if a user paid their e-tolls for five years, their historic e-toll debt would be wiped clean.
This unlikely to work, however, as Gauteng road users who don’t pay their e-tolls have become adamant in their resolve.
Outa’s 4-step plan
In July, Outa outlined its four-step plan to settle e-toll debt:
- Renegotiate the debt with the PIC.
- End the collections contract with Electronic Toll Collections (ETC), as this is a massive and unnecessary cost.
- Reassess the budget to include allocations by National Treasury towards the debt, including a possible allocation from the fuel levy.
- OUTA believes that Sanral may be owed more revenue from the profits made by the three main toll concessionaires on long-distance tolled routes. Outa urges Treasury to investigate these contracts and reclaim funds owed to Sanral.
“The main reason this scheme has failed is due to the lack of trust citizens have in our government on the e-toll decision,” said Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage.
“The public are fully aware that this infrastructure must ultimately be paid for by society, but we are not willing to pay for grossly inefficient systems that have extremely high administrative costs.”
Duvenage also said that if Outa’s suggestion of a 10 cents addition to the fuel levy been applied when e-tolls were implemented instead, the existing freeway bond would be completely financed and the 10c addition to the fuel levy could have been used to finance other overdue upgrades.
E-tolls will never work – AA
The Automobile Association (AA) has strongly criticised e-tolls in a statement discussing its recently-released Road Funding Report, and has urged the Ministerial Task Team to acknowledge that the model has failed, and will continue to fail if it is not shut down.
“Our research indicates people will not pay under the current conditions. It also shows that debt is not a factor in people’s decisions; most users are not paying because of a principled position taken years ago and no amount of cajoling or enticement will change their minds,” it said.
The AA highlighted that e-toll compliance remains low due to a number of factors.
“These include the confusion resulting from different messaging from provincial and national government, and the announcement in March that historic debt will not be pursued,” AA said.
“In this environment, compliance rates are expected to significantly taper off further, leaving only a fraction who still pay. There is not now, nor will there ever be, a collection system based on the gantries and ETC’s (proven inefficient) model of collection that will work.”
Instead, the AA believes that the only logical approach to take is to suspend e-tolls completely while reimbursing all e-toll payments that have been made by road users.
The AA is calling for “the ring-fencing of an e-toll levy linked to the General Fuel Levy (GFL).”
It added that it has come to this conclusion after considering numerous road funding models used both in Africa and internationally.
“Ring-fencing alleviates many of the problems currently experienced and will immediately have an impact on the funding of the GFIP,” said AA.
“Given the huge resistance to e-tolls in Gauteng, finding a workable and sustainable solution should be everyone’s goal. This is, and always has been, that solution; it is one we have been advocating since e-tolls was first on the table.”
The AA also criticised SANRAL’s “negative approach to public interaction,” which it claims has tainted many motorists’ view of the agency.
“Consumers are already stretched to their financial limits, and they have dug in their heels on this issue. Attempts to force these payments out of them will not change their minds. It will, in fact, only further entrench their already hardline approach, causing even more debt.”
The full report can be accessed here.