No delay to start of e-tolls: Sanral
20 April 2012
The e-tolling system on Gauteng province's main highways will become operational on 30 April as planned, despite opposition from motorists, business, unions and a pending court challenge, says South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) CEO Nazir Alli.
Addressing journalists in Pretoria on Thursday, Alli said there was no chance that the implementation of the e-tolling system would be delayed, as this would only result in additional costs.
He said the number of motorists who had registered for the system had increased to 500 000.
Last week, the agency gazetted that motorists who did not register for e-tags would end up paying more per kilometre.
No arrests or impounding of vehicles
Alli said it would be a criminal offence for a motorist to use the toll roads and not pay the tariffs, adding that South Africans could not pick and choose which laws they wished to obey and which they did not.
However, Alli dismissed media reports that there would be "Sanral police" serving unregistered motorist with tickets. He said Sanral did not have the power to arrest anyone or to impound anyone's vehicles.
Instead, he said, Sanral would use the current law enforcement agencies to warn motorists of the implications of their non-compliance.
Full consultation 'well in advance'
Alli said the issue of tolling some of Gauteng's main highways was not new, but had been part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project from the time the plan was introduced in 2007.
The matter had been approved by Cabinet. Sanral had also had to get permission from all the relevant local authorities, and public consultations had been held, and this had happened long before construction started, Alli said.
He said Sanral had documents to prove that extensive consultation on the project was undertaken within government, with business and labour, and with the public, and that presentations on the project were made when it was announced.
'Nothing to do with Public Investment Cooperation'
He rejected allegations that the government was pushing ahead with the system despite opposition because the state-owned Public Investment Cooperation (PIC) had acquired bonds in Sanral.
The PIC manages investment funds on behalf of public sector entities. Among its clients is the Government Employees Pension Fund.
Alli said the PIC did not buy Sanral-issued bonds only. "It invests in other state-owned entities, which have a mandate to bring about development in the country."
'How else fund the road maintenance backlog?'
He said the question South Africans should be asking was how the country was going to fund its lagging infrastructure and transport system, adding that there was a R149-billion backlog on maintenance of the country's roads.
He said the e-tolling system worked and provided at least one solution to the country's fiscal and infrastructure development and environmental challenges.
Quoting statistics, Alli said that out of the 606 000 kilometres of public road in the country, 3 120 kilometres were tolled.
He added that the most fundamental contribution of the e-tolling system had been job creation, as at least 20 000 jobs had been created in the construction phase of the project.
Now the project had created 1 200 permanent jobs in toll revenue collection and other areas.
Also speaking at the briefing, Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said the government had done a lot to accommodate the public, especially the poor, in that taxis and buses were excluded from paying the tolls, while the middle class had also been considered because there was a R550 cap for regular road users.