Tolling hits us where it hurts

2013-05-07 10:00

The Western Cape government is opposed to transport parastatal Sanral’s proposed N1/N2 Winelands toll project because it will have far-reaching negative consequences for communities and the economy in the City of Cape Town; as well as the surrounding municipalities of Breede Valley, Theewaterskloof, Drakenstein and Stellenbosch.

The burden of tolling would be visited upon ordinary people and businesses, especially the farming sector, which is currently facing a severe crisis and is the backbone of the Western Cape economy.

The general principle behind the tolling of roads is that of “user-pays”, and is reasonably applicable in certain instances.

Some people point out that we toll Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town and, quite rightly so, as this is a “luxury” road that is not generally used by many motorists on a regular basis.

In addition, there are alternative routes between the parts of the Cape Peninsula that it connects. Given the enormous expense of maintaining this 9km stretch of road and its narrow user base, it would be patently unfair to draw from the general pool of road maintenance funds to cover its repair and other costs.

No such analysis exists to motivate for Sanral’s proposed N1/N2 Winelands toll project. Sanral is not willing to disclose the cost of the project or the likely tolls to be paid by road users, or its impact on affected communities.

There is no particular cost burden, as exists in the case of Chapman’s Peak Drive, that makes tolling necessary and Western Cape roads are in fact in good condition. According to information on Sanral’s website, the relevant roads are rated as being either in “fair to good” or “good” condition.

Taxpayers already contribute adequately to the public purse for road maintenance through the fuel levy and other taxes, so it is less a matter of

needing more money but rather one of how effectively the money currently available is being used.

A key argument against the proposed tolls is the lack of proper public consultation, especially given the adverse effect of the proposed project on communities.

This cannot go unchallenged.

Toll roads will inevitably hike the cost of transportation, which will cascade through the economy: taxi companies will increase their fares for commuters who travel from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain to the Cape Town CBD, and food truckers and retailers will pass on their increased costs to food buyers.

This will pinch the pockets of poor households, heavily reliant on public transport, and for whom food costs generally comprise a large portion of spending.

The N1 and N2 are the main transport routes from farms to Cape Town harbour for the export of produce. The increase in costs to move approximately 18?million cartons of table grapes from the Hex River Valley to the port (among other goods) will make the loss of farm jobs more likely and the growth of the farming sector virtually impossible.

What is clear is that a fundamentally different approach is needed and one that aligns with a holistic transport plan.

The suspicion is that luxury projects that would be funded by these tolls, like a second Huguenot Tunnel, would produce a crop of juicy tenders and contracts for the ANC and connected elites.

»?Zille is the Western Cape premier

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