Legislation paving the way for putting e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) into practice was approved in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Introducing debate on the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill, Transport Minister Ben Martins said the bill was essential to enable “the appropriate implementation of the e-tolling system”.
These measures were required to implement the GFIP and to facilitate provision of public transport and other projects in Gauteng, he said.
He rejected calls for e-tolling to be scrapped, saying the non-collection of tolls might impact negatively on the ability of the SA National Roads Agency Limited to raise capital for infrastructure development projects.
Inability to collect revenue would also damage the credit reputation of Sanral among investors, and could negatively affect Sanral and government’s international ratings, Martins said.
The bill was strongly opposed by most opposition parties, with the Democratic Alliance’s Ian Ollis calling it “the world’s most expensive toll collection system”.
According to the DA’s calculations, it could cost up to R11 billion over eight years to operate.
There were many more efficient funding models available, such as a fuel levy of ten to 14 cents a litre, which would cover all the costs of the GFIP, he said.
The measure was approved by 193 votes to 98 in a division. There were two abstentions.
The bill now goes to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.
Opposition to e-tolling has been widespread and virulent, with the Congress of SA Trade Unions organising extensive protest action and urging motorists not to register with Sanral or buy e-tags.
An application by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) to scrap e-tolling was dismissed in December by the High Court in Pretoria.
The court granted Outa leave, on January 25, to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.
A date for the appeals court hearing has yet to be set.