Civil disobedience over tolls possible: AA

11 August 2011 - 16:32 By Sapa
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The Automobile Association (AA) has raised the spectre of civil disobedience against tolling on the Gauteng freeway improvement project (GFIP).

Reacting to Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin's announcement on Thursday that Cabinet had approved reduced toll tariffs for the GFIP phase A1, AA spokesman Gary Ronald said it appeared that all intentions of a fund to alleviate tolling had disappeared leaving the public to foot the bill.

The questions was -- now what?" he asked in a statement.

While industry as a whole now waited for the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to announce the date tolling would begin, the AA did not see the implementation of tolls, even slightly discounted, as a "victory for the people on the ground" as coined by government spokesman Jimmy Manyi.

Rather, it seemed that with the exclusion of public transport from tolling, "the usual suspects" were left to foot the bill -- which was more like another blow to the head of the motorist than a victory for the people.

"Commodities are going to cost more as a direct result of the tolls and effectively, the poor will be worst off."

The issue of civil disobedience would be the next hurdle for the government to overcome.

"If the public rally together and stand firm in the face of tolling by not registering for e-tags and flagrantly disregarding tolling costs and consequent fines, will the authorities have the wherewithal to manage a disgruntled five million motorists?

"Affected industry groups have been expecting the toll announcement and, now that the tariff has been set, will be considering their next course of action in the days ahead," he said.

Earlier, Cronin told a media briefing following Wednesday's fortnightly Cabinet meeting motorcycles would pay 24 cents a kilometre, light motor vehicles 40 cents, medium vehicles R1, and "longer" vehicles R2.

Qualifying commuter taxis and buses would be exempted entirely.

In addition to the 31 percent e-tag discount, other discounts applicable would be a time of day discount available to all vehicles, and a frequent user discount for motorcycles and light motor vehicles fitted with an e-tag.

Cabinet had agreed that Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele should give effect to the approval in terms of the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and National Roads Act, Cronin said.

In a statement, the Democratic Alliance's Neil Campbell said the toll fees as announced were still too high and would add unacceptably to the costs of doing business in the province.

"While we welcome the exemption for commuter taxis and buses, the private motorist will be hit exceptionally hard.

"We are still in the dark about the real costs of operating the e-tolling system, which is possibly as high as R14 billion over eight years."

This seemed to be excessive and would be difficult to implement in a situation where many people were hard to trace and many licence plates were fraudulent.

The DA was concerned the toll fees would rise further over the years.

"We are paying the price for extremely poor planning by the Gauteng provincial government," Campbell said.

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