E-toll funding must be secured elsewhere, says the AA
Remarks by transport minister Fikile Mbalula that e-tolls will not be scrapped, and that an e-toll funding solution will be found, are disappointing and out of step with the sentiments of most Gauteng motorists.
The Automobile Association (AA) has reiterated its long-held view that the e-toll system in its present form will continue to fail as most motorists have a taken a principled stand against making payments.
Mbalula was quoted in The Citizen newspaper today as saying national roads must be maintained “ which meant the e-toll system cannot be scrapped”.
He is further quoted as saying: “The funding model we have employed as a country for our roads is affected by our attitude towards e-tolls, but we are working on that, and an e-toll solution will be found”.
“Suggesting road funding and maintenance is an either/or situation based solely on e-tolls is misleading. There are other options available. Scrapping of e-tolls should not, in our view, result in a lack of maintenance and development on the Gauteng freeway. It just means alternative sources of funding must be sought,” said the AA.
The association said its research is clear that the overwhelming majority of Gauteng motorists will never pay e-tolls under any circumstances. It has proposed the scrapping of the system and the reimbursement of funds to those who have historically paid.
“We have also called for the ring-fencing of a portion of the existing General Fuel Levy to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) as a more sustainable funding mechanism for e-tolls.”
The AA said the GFIP must be seen in the greater context of transport challenges in the province, and democratisation of transport for the benefit of all, not just of private vehicles, which is not the case.
The association said motorists in the province are being saddled with a financial burden to maintain a major route but other transport needs are not being met. It said, for instance, other factors must be considered when dealing with e-toll funding.
One of these are the costs associated with the Gautrain, which services the transport needs of a minority of citizens in the province and runs contrary to the concept of the user-pays principle which the government advocates.
“In 2020, the Gauteng transport department paid R1.9bn to Bombela, the private company operating the Gautrain as part of the so-called Patronage Guarantee. The guarantee is paid to Bombela by the provincial government if ridership levels on the Gautrain fall below set levels. In 2020 the Gauteng transport budget was R7.7bn so the money paid to Bombela consumed 25% of the province’s transport budget. Surely this money will be better spent on servicing projects such as the GFIP, which carries more people daily than the Gautrain?”
The AA said it also concerned that no formal decision on the way forward for e-tolls has been communicated to the public. In 2019, months before the election, the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) announced it would suspend the process of pursuing historical debt owed to it.
“Not since 2019, months before the election, when Sanral announced it would suspend the process of pursuing historical debt owed to it, has anything been officially communicated about the future e-tolls. The Cabinet has an obligation to inform the public on what the future of this system is, and it should do so sooner rather than later.”