Appeal: Outa left it too long

2013-10-10 00:00

THE Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) waited five years after the toll roads were declared before lodging an appeal to stop e-tolling in Gauteng, and it is now too late to turn back the clock.

This was the ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal yesterday after five appeal judges rejected Outa’s application to stop e-tolling on seven major roads in Gauteng.

Appeal judges F. Brand, B. Nugent, X. Pertse, C. van der Merwe and K. Swain said Outa’s procrastination was what forced them to reject its appeal without considering the merits of any of the arguments brought by Outa, the SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, the SA National Consumer Union, and the QuadPara Association of SA.

When the toll roads were declared, the public had 180 days to appeal, but the association waited five years before acting.

“The clock cannot be turned back … and I think it would be contrary to the interests of justice to attempt to do so,” said Brand.

The judges, however, did set aside a high court order directing Outa to pay the costs of the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the Gauteng Transport MEC, and the National Treasury. This has saved Outa millions of rands in legal fees for the seven advocates of its opponents in court. The judges said Outa had applied primarily in the public’s interest.

The judges said if the government and Sanral had known they would face opposition in court on the planned toll roads, they would not have spent R20 billion on “truly magnificent” highway upgrades and an e-tolling system before the court cases were finalised.

While not siding with Outa, Brand said the costs of the e-toll system would probably be passed to those who could least afford it and on whom the effect would by no means be trivial. But Outa’s argument that the seven roads in question would have been upgraded regardless of any opposition in court “was simply not true”, said the judges.

The appeal judges said although they did not consider any of the merits in any of the arguments, they would have reached the same verdict as the high court that rejected Outa’s appeal.

The Automobile Association (AA) said the ruling did not address the concerns of citizens, adding that it was a travesty that road improvements were funded by tolls when there were cheaper alternatives. It reminded motorists that the public will have until November 9 to comment on the gazetted e-toll tariffs.

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