Gauteng considered e-tolls from 1997 – Dipuo Peters

2014-11-04 13:10

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The controversial e-tolling of Gauteng roads was first considered by the provincial government more than 10 years before construction started, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has said.

Peters came out in firm support of the e-tolling system in Pretoria today when she addressed the panel established by Gauteng Premier David Makhura to assess the economic impact of the system.

Peters also defended the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) – which is managing e-tolls – against what she called “spurious” allegations that the agency was “milking” e-tolls or “profiting at the expense of the public”.

She called for the attacks on Sanral to stop because the agency merely implemented policy decision made by the government.

“This is important to clarify because of persistent and unfortunate attempts to isolate the agency from government. The ANC government has, through this agency, delivered a solid and quality national road network that we should all be proud of. In South Africa we do not have national roads that are riddled with potholes,” said Peters in her defence of the agency.

Anyone looking for the origins of the e-tolling system should look as far back as 1997, when the Gauteng provincial government first mooted an electronic tolling system to fund road infrastructure, she said.

The decision took 10 years to implement, and construction started in 2007.

Peters added that Sanral had not been established when this decision was taken.

At the time, the provincial government’s report found that “electronic tolling allows the opportunity to lower toll plaza costs considerably and should therefore be used to the maximum from the outset”.

Peters, flanked by the panel’s chairperson Professor Muxe Nkondo and Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli, said the Gauteng province should “share the credit” for the introduction of e-tolling.

“I don’t know if the esteemed panel has had sight of these reports but in case it hasn’t, we do have copies available. I deal with this aspect to clear the confusion about the genesis of this project. The provincial government was first to propose a Gauteng toll road strategy,” she added.

Peters, who is against the idea of introducing a fuel levy to fund and maintain e-tolls and the provincial road network, also took exception to ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile’s utterances against the system.

She said he had given his support of e-tolling while he was in the provincial government.

Mashatile has spoken out against the system and told the same panel a few weeks ago that e-tolling was crippling the economy of the province and should be replaced with a fuel levy.

Peters said road infrastructure funding was at the core of the dispute over e-tolling, adding that the fiscus could not carry the project without an additional source or revenue stream.

Acting transport director-general Mawethu Vilana weighed in on the debate to introduce a fuel levy, saying this would be “disastrous” as many people would not afford it.

Vilana said a fuel levy would result in an extra R3.17 cents a litre being levied to make up for the R64 billion that was needed for road maintenance and infrastructure development per year.

The department was clear that the user-pay system was the only way to go and hailed the system for, among others, decreasing the travel times, decreasing the number of road accidents and improving the economy of Gauteng.

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