Gauteng toll plan unwise
THE article about the new toll road system in Gauteng (Weekend Argus, January 9) refers.
When the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project was first reported in the technical press the chief executive officer of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), Nazir Alli, said “roads of this high standard require the ‘user pay’ principle to ensure sufficient funding”.
Because the roads are in an urban area, hi-tech open road tolling with sophisticated management systems is being used. Car owners will have to buy transponders and new licence plates. With four million vehicles this implies a cost of over R1 billion excluding the time costs.
Toll roads have become a part of the road scenario but there is no published data of how effective roadtolling has been and whether it has been economically viable.
What for instance is the basis of the agreements between Sanral and the toll companies and what is the division of risk? What is the cost of collecting the tolls and what are the interest rates that apply in the loans that the concessionaires have to raise for construction? How much of the total cost of a new toll road is built into the toll and how much does Sanral contribute?
Are our traffic volumes outside of the main urban areas high enough to sustain the cost of construction, maintenance and loan redemption? If another form of funding is used can all these interest charges, cost of collection, and so on be avoided and the savings added to the sums available for construction and maintenance? It is impossible to get answers to these questions from Sanral.
A question is how will Sanral deal with the many vehicle owners, particularly in our poorer communities, who do not have bank accounts?
How will they pay, if at all, and how will Sanral chase up accounts in arrears? All these elements have cost implications and will reduce the amount of toll money that goes towards the road funds.
There is no doubt that the “user pays” principle is best achieved by adopting a road tax on fuel coupled with a sensible annual licensing fee to account for the different effects on road maintenance produced by cars and heavy trucks.
Experienced road and traffic engineers have been calling for this system for many years. The cost of collection is negligible as the oil companies already collect the excise tax on fuel so the additional amount will not add to their costs.
Money for roads will be easily accumulated in a fund and may even attract some interest. All this requires is the political will and foresight.
The fuel tax will make our road fund money go much further. Why are we so silent about its obvious advantages?
The system for Gauteng will turn into an absolute shambles for lack of the necessary skills and infrastructure to manage it, with serious implications for the economy which is reliant on a good transport system.
PRACTICAL: The ‘user pays’ principle is best achieved by adopting a road tax on fuel coupled with a sensible annual licensing fee, says the writer.