E-tags set to toll you all over the country

2011-02-12 16:54

Get used to the idea that you will soon be billed electronically for using national toll roads across the country.

Gauteng’s controversial new 66c-a-kilometre electronic tag (e-tag) tolling system, due to be implemented by the end of this June, is only the first phase of ambitious plans to replace tolling booths on national roads with cameras and electronic billing in all South Africa’s provinces.

South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) chief executive Nazir Alli said the Gauteng system would be tested over the next six to nine months and then rolled out in other provinces.

The aim was to have the ­3?100km of toll roads in all provinces converted to the e-tag system within three to four years, he said.

Sanral’s announcement of the new 66c/km toll tariff has angered commuters, freight carriers and public transport operators, who have threatened protest action and started petitions.

But Alli declined to comment on transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele’s attempt to defuse the outrage by announcing there would be more public engagement on the tariffs.

Alli said rather than speak about the minister, he preferred to point out that the matter had to be viewed ­“holistically”.

He said money had to be found for the maintenance of South Africa’s national roads network, which is ­financed by the fiscus, as well as for the extension of the network to rural ­areas.

Toll roads were financed by loans obtained by Sanral and had to be paid for by those who used them.

Alli said that users of toll roads got “excellent value for money” in the sense that the toll system gave them fast, safe and pothole-free roads with emergency services.

Sanral’s discount system also considerably ­reduced the tariffs that toll-road users had to pay.

He said users of toll roads would benefit extensively from considerable frequent road-use discounts, discounts for use of the roads at off-peak times and other discounts.

Discounts would, for example, reduce the road-use cost for public transport operators to below 20c/km, Alli said.

Reassuring the road-using public that he would lend an ear to those who were panicked by the announcement of the Gauteng toll tariff, the minister said: “We have been listening to the various views regarding the tolling of the Gauteng freeways. There will be further engagement on this matter.”

The issue will also be addressed at a transport department summit in March.

Transport ministry spokesperson Logan Maistry said South Africa’s tolling system, as well as other pertinent issues related to the construction and maintenance of roads in South Africa, would also be discussed at the summit.

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