‘Gauteng toll roads unfair to users’

2011-10-08 15:14

Road users have been seriously short-changed by the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Scheme (GFIS), the former provincial transport head, Sibusiso Buthelezi, said this week.

Buthelezi said Gauteng’s controversial open-road tolling system was only a small example of how the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) had undermined the whole transport scheme in the province.

Buthelezi was Gauteng’s public works, roads and transport head from the inception phase of the GFIS in 2006 until he left the department under a cloud in 2009.

He was given a golden handshake by Premier Nomvula Mokonyane to avoid a lengthy disciplinary process after he was accused of tender irregularities.

This week Buthelezi said he had been part of the initial agreements between his department, various municipalities and Sanral since 2006 and that the outcome of the GFIS was not what had been agreed on.

“Sanral has totally ignored the ­initial agreements made with the municipalities and the [provincial and national] transport departments ,” he said.

“These include that tolling of roads would only happen on new roads because it is only fair to introduce tolling on new roads.

“And that even where there is ­going to be tolls, concessions will be made, not just for public transport but also for high occupancy ­vehicles, and people would be encourage to start ride clubs.”

He said the toll system could not go live before other transport initiatives were in place.

These include park-and-ride facilities and the extension of the Bus Rapid Transport System to Greater Soweto, the southern parts of Johannesburg, the northern parts of Johannesburg and the further extension of the system into Ekurhuleni and Tshwane.

This had not ­happened, he said.

He also said road users should not be charged any tolls before the upgrading and expansion of the entire freeway network.

“Sanral has taken all the revenue potential from the tolls for itself, ignoring various agreements that the province and municipalities would also benefit from this revenue.”

Buthelezi said the diversion of traffic onto municipal roads during the construction of the national freeways in Gauteng would continue when the tolls came into place, putting more strain on provincial and municipal roads.

Sanral responded to Buthelezi’s allegations by saying they had been made prior to the ministerial steering committee process and had been found to be “baseless”.

“Mr Buthelezi’s statements are unfounded. Non-toll roads are funded by government allocations and are not allowed to borrow or be cross-subsidised from toll road income and vice versa,” the agency said in a statement.

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