Cosatu rejects new road tolls
Exempting minibus taxis and buses from road tolls has done little to ease anger and frustrations about the new charges.
Transport Deputy Minister Jeremy Cronin yesterday announced that taxis and buses will not pay tolls for using Gauteng's recently expanded freeway network.
But unions and other organisations have rejected Cronin's announcement, saying the massive and widespread opposition to the tolls has been ignored.
Patrick Craven, spokesman for union federation Cosatu, said: "The tolls will impose a huge additional burden on road users, while generating huge profits for those who have installed and will be running this R20-billion system.
"They will have a particularly devastating effect on workers who have no alternative but to drive to work because of the lack of a proper public transport system."
Similar sentiments were voiced by Gary Ronald, spokesman for the Automobile Association, who said: "It seems that, with the exclusion of public transport from tolling, the usual suspects are left to foot the bill - it's more like another blow to the head of the motorist than a victory for the people.
"Commodities are going to cost more and the poor will be worst off."
The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project tariffs were first announced in February but were put on hold following a public outcry. The fees were set by the SA National Roads Agency.
A government-led committee was set up to review the proposed tolls.
The roads agency proposed the fees so that it could repay a R20-billion loan it had raised to pay for the improvements to the freeways, designed to lessen congestion.
Stephen Sangweni, of the SA Commuters' Association, said the taxi and bus exemption "brings relief" but consumers will nevertheless feel the pinch.
"Either way, the cost of goods will rise and we will be affected. Bread, furniture and medication will all go up. The minister [Sbu Ndebele] must understand that we are not in America but in Africa."
Cronin said: "What we are most concerned about is the amount of road use [and] what damage [vehicles] are doing to the road, and obviously the heavier vehicles are certainly doing that, hence the increased tariffs."
He could not say when the tolling system will be fully operational.
Tolls for motorcyclists have been reduced from 29c/km to 24c/km, and tolls for cars from 49.5c/km to 40c/km. Non-commuter minibuses will pay R1/km, a drop of 49c/km.
Frequent users will qualify for a discount.