N3 tests own e-toll version

2015-07-09 10:44
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E-toll protest in Johannesburg

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) is studying the court ruling halting its planned e-toll protest, but a few opponents of e-tolls still gathered at Cosatu House in Johannesburg Friday morning. See the photos.

PREPARE for e-tolling in KwaZulu-Natal by the end of this year.

That is, if all goes well with preliminary testing due to start next week.

The N3 Toll Concession (N3TC), the company ­responsible for the N3 toll route between Heidelberg in Gauteng and Cedara in KZN, yesterday said it will being testing its Electronic Toll Collection system in selected toll lanes from Monday next week.

If all goes well, the company plans to roll out e-tolling to its three major plazas between October and ­December this year.

But it is not all doom and gloom for drivers as they may suspect, said the N3TC, because unlike the e-tolling system in Gauteng, the rollout of the electronic payment method is simply “another convenient payment option” for those motorists who wish to make use of this ­alternative.

According to N3TC spokesperson Andy Visser, the testing would take place for the next two months, after which the outcomes of the trial would be evaluated and technical issues addressed.

“The testing is being undertaken on the equipment installed in N3TC-managed toll plaza environments to ensure that the system is effective and functional for when the ETC system eventually becomes fully ­operational ... following which we will commence with accepting the electronic tag as an additional payment method,” Visser said.

The difference to the scheme in Gauteng, where ­vehicles travel freely under the gantries, is that the same mechanism in marked e-tag lanes at the conventional plazas will activate the booms, allowing motorists to pass through the gates quicker.

The remaining lanes will still operate normally, with motorists either paying by cash or card.

Visser said during the testing, motorists with existing Sanral e-tags on their vehicles would hear beeps; ­however they would not be charged.

“By way of understanding, these motorists should hear four beeps, which indicates that the system has read the tag, but no transaction has been processed,” he said.

Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) CEO Wayne Duvenage said the system effectively makes it ­easier for fleet vehicles to travel without cash or cards being issued, as well as for the average motorist to get through toll plazas faster. However, he anticipated some problems.

Citing the Stormvoël Toll Plaza outside Pretoria as an example where the system is currently in place, ­Duvenage said the toll concessionaires will want to push the e-tag option as it reduces employment and offers better revenue control.

“In order to drive the e-tag usage up, they will ‘create’ congestion at the cash lanes, causing frustration at the plazas for those paying through conventional methods to seek going the e-tag route,” he said.

According to Duvenage, it could also promote abuse of company car tags, and vehicle registrations being used on private cars when driving along the N3. “This is especially in government fleets, where the administrative controls linked to managing the e-toll accounts by municipalities and government departments are weak,” he said.

KZN Transport Department communications ­manager Nathi Sukazi said the project was aimed at ­creating options for motorists to seamlessly pass through existing toll gates, which would ease traffic flow, but the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), which manages other plazas on the N3 like the ­Mariannhill Toll, is yet to engage with the provincial ­government on its plans for the system.

Sanral provincial spokesperson Logashri Sewnarain was approached for comment yesterday but was unable to respond before the print deadline.

Visser said it is thought that e-tolls would be ­implemented at all plazas along the N3 during the latter part of 2015.

The toll plazas that are managed by N3TC and will be affected by the testing in KZN include:

• Tugela Toll Plaza – mainline and ramp.

• Bergville Ramp Plaza.

• Treverton Ramp Plaza.

• Mooi River Toll Plaza – mainline and ramps

Read more on:    kwazulu-natal  |  e-tolling

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