Clem Sunter

Why I am buying an e-tag

2012-04-25 12:50

Clem Sunter

There has been such confusion and controversy around Sanral’s e-tolling project in Gauteng that it is difficult to choose between the different options available to the ordinary motorist. As a regular user of the road to the airport, I have already grown accustomed to the gantries and the weird purple glow they cast onto the motorway at night.

On balance, I have decided to get an e-tag and register an e-toll account which I will regularly top up with the necessary amount of cash. I am certainly not going to give Sanral direct access either to my bank account or to my credit card account, so I will be making electronic transfers to keep my e-toll account in credit. In other words, there will be no linkages via which money can automatically be transferred between my everyday personal accounts and my e-toll account.

Let me give you my reasons for going this route to which you are quite entitled to register your disagreement in the comments section. I am not in any way trying to influence your choice to be the same as mine. I merely wish to start a debate which brings greater clarity to the issue:

1. I want to continue using the motorway to the airport. I do not want to try alternative routes because it will take longer to minimize the number of gantries I go under; and it could end up being more expensive given the price of petrol and diesel. I am not an engineer but stopping and starting at robots on ordinary roads must use more fuel.

2. The discounts offered by fitting an e-tag are substantial compared to driving under the gantries, having your car photographed and receiving an invoice. Moreover, I worry more about any problem which causes my invoice not to arrive on time than I worry about incorrect debits to my e-tag account. I do not want to suffer penalties for non-payment of amounts I know nothing about; and I am certainly not going to keep a log book of gantries I have passed under and the specific tariff for each gantry. I do not have time to indulge in book-keeping of this nature. Nor do I want to be stopped on the highway by some official who issues me with a summons for non-payment or, worse still, impounds my vehicle. An added convenience is that you can have four vehicles on one e-tag account. Also the money you pay to open the account (R50 per vehicle) is credited to it as an initial deposit.

3. I found the young man to whom I addressed some questions at the Sanral call centre most helpful and patient. If the quality of his responses are anything to go by, I am happy to trust in the integrity of Sanral’s management who must have trained him. Accordingly I do believe that if there are mistaken debits to my e-tag account, I will be able to resolve them via the call centre. As far as the implications of having my vehicle or e-tag stolen are concerned, there are procedures which can be swiftly followed to close the e-toll account. In any event, the monthly cap on the total amount payable eases my concern that things will get too out of hand before effective action is taken. It is not like losing your credit card or have someone hack into your bank account.

4. I am in favour of the “user pays” principle when it comes to our road networks. At least, one can hold Sanral accountable for maintaining the motorways around Johannesburg in decent condition. Furthermore, trucks definitely do more damage to the road surface than cars; so they should pay more. I know about the argument that we already pay taxes and toll fees are an unnecessary extra charge. My counter-argument is that any money saved by the government through not having to finance the capital expenditure and running costs of new road systems should be allocated to improving the quality of education in this country – as well as law and order.

So there you are – I have stated my case for giving Sanral the benefit of the doubt. I know of course about the fight taking place in court to stop the project or change its nature. I know about the demonstrations about to take place against e-tolling. I just want to get on with my life at minimum expense and disruption.

Send your comments to Clem

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