DA at a dead end on tolling

2013-05-07 10:00

The DA is neither turning left, right nor going straight ahead on the matter of tolling. Rather, it has hit a cul-de-sac.

You’re damned by the DA if you propose a fuel levy to pay for roads and you’re damned if you propose to toll the roads.

But nary a word is said about where funding is to come from to finance road infrastructure, its upkeep and the refurbishment of the Huguenot Tunnel – which, according to transport parastatal Sanral, has reached the end of its planned life.

Is the DA going to raise taxes? Is it going to borrow the billions needed?

It is difficult to come to any other conclusion than that the DA is using the issue as a bargaining chip for next year’s general elections. It almost said so outright: A vote for the DA is a vote against tolling, a vote for the ANC is a vote for tolling.

Yet the DA may want to consider what its present stance on the issue does to its credibility. Let’s look at the history.

In July 2006, the DA was angry at plans by the then ANC-controlled Western Cape government to forge ahead with a fuel levy.

That does not hold for the Gauteng DA, though. It is opposed to tolling, just like its Western Cape branch, but Jack Bloom has come out with guns blazing in favour of the fuel levy.

DA leader Helen Zille may have to explain why the party backs the fuel levy in Gauteng as a way of addressing road transport challenges, but not in Western Cape.

While they’re at it, the DA leadership may also want to touch on that other thorny Western Cape issue – the tolling of Chapman’s Peak. What, tolling inside the Mother City, but not on the roads that bring the people into the city?

One is left to conclude the party is not necessarily opposed to tolling in principle. Or maybe it all depends on who is proposing to toll?

When the DA opposed the proposed fuel levy in 2006, Sanral had already done a decade’s worth of preliminary work on road tolling of the N1/N2 Winelands route. Sanral indicated it has gone to great lengths to ensure that all stakeholders were consulted. Where possible, it addressed the concerns raised and continues to do so.

The message from affected communities has consistently been that they understand the N1/N2 upgrade will be to their benefit. It will lead to job creation in the short and longer terms and enhance the regional economy.

DA claims that taxi passengers will have to pay twice as much as at present is beyond alarmist, as is its message about how farmers will be affected.

Sanral estimates that, during the construction phase, some 5?000 jobs will be created, with almost three-quarters of these going to people in the lower end of the income spectrum. After construction, some 600 jobs will be generated annually.

There will also be between 1?300 and 2?100 indirect jobs.

There cannot be any argument that the N1-N2 and Huguenot Tunnel have to be upgraded. Delaying any of the necessary upgrades will compromise the safety of motorists and hurt the economy.

Congestion on Western Cape roads, particularly in and around Cape Town, has increased and continues to increase. Arguing that there is no need for the

upgrades is plain dangerous.

»?Ngcaweni is a deputy director-general in the presidency

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