Pressure mounts against e-tolls

2012-04-17 15:27

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) has called for the launch of the e-tolling system on April 30 to be delayed.

“Sacci is concerned by the uncertainty surrounding the fee system and exemptions for public transport on the Gauteng highways administered by the SA National Road Agency Limited (Sanral),” said Sacci chief executive Neren Rau in a statement.

“This makes a clear case for delaying implementation until there is clarity on the toll fees and exemptions for certain road users.”

Earlier, Business Unity South Africa called for a delay in implementation until the public’s concerns had been fully addressed.

Sacci was concerned that road users without e-tags would be charged about four to six times more than those with registered e-tags.

“The discrepancy between this rate and the ‘normal’ tariff begs the question of the degree to which alternate users will subsidise other road users (including those who are exempt) and the correlation (or the lack thereof) between the ‘penalty rate’ and the cost of maintaining the road infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Afrikaner lobby group AfriForum has instructed its lawyers to urgently prepare court papers in a bid to stop e-tolling.

“The public is asked to wait for the outcome of the proposed legal action of AfriForum and other groups, before deciding whether to register for e-toll at all,” said chief executive Kallie Kriel.

He said AfriForum was seeking to oppose the decision to levy a tariff of R1.75 per kilometre on road users who were not registered for e-toll.

Referring to the Competition Act, Kriel said it is clearly stipulated in Article 8(a) that no dominant company was allowed to abuse its position of dominance in order to levy excessive tariffs.

Sanral gazetted the tariffs on Friday.

Alternate users would be charged R1.75 per kilometre, compared to the standard tariff of 30 cents per kilometre for registered users.

Sacci was also concerned about recently published regulations on the policing of the e-tolling system.

“The regulations primarily serve to introduce a non-state ‘police force’ on Gauteng highways to ensure that road users pay their e-toll fees,” Rau said.

“The introduction of a non-state police force with powers to search and confiscate private property and that is not directly accountable to an electorate is highly disturbing and against the spirit and letter of the South African Constitution.”

He questioned why such a force would be required if the electronic capturing methods installed at great cost would perform as intended.

“Furthermore, there is no clarity on the cost of introducing such a policing structure and the cost of maintaining it. It is safe to assume that the cost of such a structure adds significantly to the toll tariffs that will be imposed,” he said.

He also questioned whether these employees had been trained, and whether they would be ready by April 30 when the toll system was due to be activated.

Sacci said it would ask Sanral to delay implementation and use the extra time to look at opportunities to further reduce the costs to businesses and consumers of using the roads.

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