City slams Sanral extolling Winelands toll benefits

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Cape Town- Road users will have to pay about R2 in tolls for every R1 of benefit to them should the proposed N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway project go ahead in Cape Town, according to the City.

It submitted a replying affidavit in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday with reports from independent experts that sought to prove how road users would not benefit from tolling should it go ahead.

This statement coincided with a full page advert by Sanral in various newspapers on Tuesday, extolling the benefits of the project, which has been put on hold pending a review to be heard in court on August 11.

Sanral’s advert stated eight benefits of the N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway project, which revolved around improved road conditions, reduced traffic congestion and travel times, and benefits to the economy.

“Toll tariff is only charged when the benefits accrued by the road user are higher than the costs of upgrading these roads,” the advert stated.

But the city’s transport mayoral committee member Brett Herron said its own commissioned expert reports refuted the “so-called benefits”.

Payers would be losers

In preparing for the review application, it commissioned 10 experts to analyse and report on information and bidding documents made available by Sanral.

“Of each Rand paid in toll fees, only 29c will be spent on construction, maintenance and operational works which will benefit road users,” Herron said.

“If other non-toll items and the cost of public finance are added, then the construction, maintenance and operational works which will benefit road users would be equivalent to 41c of each Rand of toll revenue in real terms.”

Herron said the City's experts had ascertained on Sanral’s experts’ own version that road users would pay about R2 in tolls for every R1 of benefit to them, “clearly demonstrating” that toll payers would be losers if the project was implemented.

Sanral’s advert dismissed media reports that its preferred bidder Protea Parkway Consortium (PPC) stood to make R48bn in profit over the concession period, stating it was “simply not true”.

The City said PPC’s pre-tax profits, which included a combination of shareholder returns and corporate tax, amounted to 39 cents of each rand paid to toll, in real terms.

The City’s replying affidavit concluded it would be much cheaper and more cost effective for Sanral to fund the upgrades and maintenance of the freeways itself.

Repeated attempts to obtain comment from Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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