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208000 say 'No' to tolls

30 November 2011 - 02:19 By AMUKELANI CHAUKE
Toll gantry on the N17, Germiston. File photo.
Toll gantry on the N17, Germiston. File photo.
Image: Simon Mathebula

A petition signed by thousands of Gauteng people to stop highway tolling is to be sent to Transport Minister S'bu Ndebele soon.

The SA National Roads Agency is preparing to implement the first phase of the system in February. The tolls, it says, will be used to repay the R20-billion loan the department secured for the project.

Three weeks ago, parliament's standing committee on petitions hosted a mass public hearing on the tolls after private citizens and organisations submitted a petition with more than 208000 signatures.

After a heated debate, members of the legislature agreed they would forward a report from the petitions committee to Ndebele so that he could consider the concerns raised.

Petitions committee chairman Jacob Khawe said members of the public wanted the department to stop the implementation of the system because it would dig a hole in their pockets, hurt the poor and emerging small businesses, and affect tourism.

Motorcyclists will have to fork out 24c/km, passenger cars will pay 40c/km and non-commuter minibuses R1/km. Commuter transport has been exempted and frequent users will qualify for a discount.

Khawe recommended that the public's concerns be forwarded to Ndebele.

During the debate, DA spokesman on transport Neil Campbell said: "In areas where there are alternate routes, those who can't afford the substantial tolls will be forced onto provincial and municipal roads, which will deteriorate even faster .

"This will lead to increases in property rates to repair these roads and the municipal taxpayer will have to cover these costs, even if he does not own a vehicle."

Gauteng roads and transport MEC Ismail Vadi argued that the project should be funded on the "user-pays principle".

He said other funding proposals, such as raising the fuel levy, were not sufficient because the current levy did not raise enough to cover the cost of the project.