E-tolls 'systematically collapsing' - MP

Cape Town - Only one in every two motorists in Gauteng is registered for e-tolls, with significant numbers of motorists deregistering from the system which is barely a year old.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has delivered a candid reply to Anton Alberts, a Freedom Front Plus MP, who asked in a parliamentary question how many Gauteng e-toll users had deregistered since January 1 2013 until the last specified date for which information was available.

He also asked what amount had been raised in e-toll fees every month since the system was commissioned on December 3 2013, and how many users have been deregistered.

First month of operations

Peters replied that 1.25 million motorists have “active accounts registered on the (South African National Roads Agency) system”, although there are some 2.5 million users of the e-toll system each month. This implies that only about half of the users are paying toll fees.

In addition Peters noted that nearly 100 000 motorists have de-registered from the system. “As at 30 September 2014, 93 292 account units have been de-registered,” reported Brown.

Income from the tolls reached a peak of R120m in June last year, but had dropped steadily in succeeding months. It dropped to R119m in July 2014, then to R98m in August, then to R86m in September - the last month for which information is available.

Altogether R994.7m was raised between December 2013 and September 2014. In its first month of operation R51.7m was raised. This rose to R81.2m in January last year, then again to R94.5m in February 2014. In March receipts grew to R106m, jumping against to R118m in April. Then in May the figure dropped to R117m, rising to its historic high of R120m in June 2014.

Alberts said it is clear from the answer that the Gauteng e-toll system “is systematically collapsing”. This has been publicly acknowledged by the minister.

Temporary fuel levy

He said the de-registration of nearly 100 000 motorists represents “an enormous number” who are questioning the legitimacy of the system. “If the trend continues, Sanral will lose about 100 000 road users every year with the accompanying loss of income as those who de-register do not pay e-tolls.”

The drop-off in payments indicates that Sanral will reach “a critical point of unsustainability” at some point not far away.

Alberts said a way of financing the highway project - and clearing the Sanral debt on the project - would be to institute a temporary fuel levy instead of the tolls.

He said the Tollgate Action Group - which includes the Freedom Front Plus - would consider further court action against the ANC government “to scrap the e-toll system” as soon as the e-toll panel’s report on the socio-economic impact of tolls is released.

Gauteng premier David Makhura reported in December that the panel has received input from labour, the public, business and political parties - most of which opposed the system. But he said the findings would only be released once discussed with national and local government.

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