Sanral: Cape Town jumping the toll gun

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Cape Town - When deciding on the Cape Winelands toll bid, The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) will look at the best possible deal for motorists, as that is its mandate, Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona told Fin24 on Thursday.

"All these unfortunate allegations in the media are misleading. We appeal to the City of Cape Town to familiarise itself with how the process works and we appeal to the public to be patient with us. We will never go out of our way to disadvantage road users," said Mona.

"The City of Cape Town is jumping the gun. They are holding us responsible for what the private sector is proposing. We are being criticised for merely being the recipients of a proposal."

Earlier on Thursday, City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron accused Sanral of "misleading the very people who will have to fund its Cape Winelands toll project", namely road users.

READ: Sanral misleading public about Cape tolls - City

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein on Monday ruled in favour of the city by setting aside an order made by the Western Cape High Court on August 28, 2014 concerning an application by Sanral to keep certain information secret.

Mona emphasised that the crux of the matter is that the sections of the N1 and N2, which form the Cape Winelands toll project, are deteriorating and Sanral wants to start work on it as soon as possible.

He explained that, because National Treasury has a lot of demands and is not a bottomless pit, Sanral has approached the private sector to raise money to prevent the particular parts of the N1 and N2 from deteriorating. He pointed out that road engineers estimate that if one does not fix a road in time, it later costs 18 times as much to do.

As a matter of policy Sanral is not allowed to cross subsidise its toll projects with public funds.

"We don't have the luxury of time to wait for the fiscus, so we become prudent in our planning in order to provide infrastructure quicker. That is the rationale of toll roads," said Mona.

He said Sanral has not as yet debated and discussed the merits of the proposal by the Protea Parkway Consortium (PPC) - the preferred bidder for the Cape Winelands toll project. He also pointed out that other proposals were even much higher.

PPC’s tender documents indicate that its estimated revenue would be about R48bn.

Mona made it clear that no toll tariffs have been determined yet and at some point, when the bidding process has been completed, the relevant information will be disclosed.

READ: Chamber questions R38bn Sanral toll contract

"It is for them to make the estimate and for us to sit down with them to see how it could work. There is no concession contract as yet, as nothing has been awarded. This was PPC's proposal and we must negotiate with them to get the best option. We can be held responsible for accepting a proposal if it is deemed unreasonable," said Mona.

The City also claims that the decisions initiating the Cape Winelands toll project have not been taken lawfully. Sanral disputes this.

"The roads have already been declared toll roads at ministerial level so it is totally wrong to say Sanral CEO Nazir Alli took the decision on his own. That lies with the minister of transport and the minister cannot declare a toll road if the matter has not been processed properly by Sanral," said Mona.

In his view, the city is putting the cart before the horse regarding the proposed toll tariffs.

"We have not completed negotiations with the preferred bidder and the minister has not determined the tariffs yet. As for the merits of the case, the court will have to decide," said Mona.

ALSO READ: Sanral breaks its silence on Cape toll 'secret'

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