Tolls must not ‘bite’ public too hard, says minister

2011-02-22 12:36

There has to be a way to pay off Gauteng’s new toll roads without leaving users bankrupt, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said today.

“The bill is there. We must find a way to pay the debt so that it doesn’t bite too hard on workers and non-working people and taxi operators, otherwise it’s self defeating,” Ndebele told journalists, ahead of his meeting with Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane to discuss the controversial road tolling system due to be introduced in the province in June.

“If it’s so hard that people are left bankrupt because of a good road, then it becomes self-defeating.”

While government needed to recoup the R20 billion borrowed for the construction of the freeways, Ndebele said this needed to be done in a manner that does not squeeze the economic and industrial development of Gauteng and ultimately, the country’s development.

Ndebele said he appreciated Mokonyane coming on record during her address in the legislature on Friday, where she also acknowledged the price tag to tolls already installed along highways, but emphasised working out a way of repayment that does not squeeze motorists’ pockets too hard.

Ndebele said motorists must not come to a point where they curse the day they drove on Gauteng roads.

“It should be as easy as possible, but the money must be paid and we need to discuss that.”

Meanwhile, Ndebele also denied media reports that the toll gates had caused tension between him and Mokonyane or even with ANC provincial secretary David Makhura.

Mokonyane has indicated that her discussions with Ndebele will centre on finding ways of consulting stakeholders, including motorists, on toll roads, and trying to find alternative ways of financing the construction.

Tempers flared after the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) announced three weeks ago, that in June it will start charging 66c/km at the 42 electronic toll gates erected on the N1, N3, N12, N17, R21 and R24. The tolls cover a distance of about 185km.

Concern was raised by businesses, labour and political parties, about the effect toll fees will have on the poor, the economy and alternative routes.

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