E-toll project debt now at R40.5bn

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - ROY COKAYNE [email protected]

THE NON-COM­PLI­ANCE of mo­torists in pay­ing their e-tolls has re­sulted in the R22 bil­lion orig­i­nally in­vested in the Gaut­eng Free­way Im­prove­ment Project (GFIP) bal­loon­ing to R40.5bn, be­cause of in­ter­est on the debt.

Coe­nie Ver­maak, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Elec­tronic Toll Col­lec­tion, a wholly-owned sub­sidiary of the Aus­trian-based Kap­sch Group, con­firmed this yes­ter­day and stressed this ad­di­tional money could have been used to build the sec­ond phase of the GFIP.

“In the end, tay­pay­ers will still pay for it. Even if we shut down the sys­tem, even if we starve it, we as ci­ti­zens of South Africa will have to pay this debt,” he told a trans­port fo­rum hosted by en­gi­neer­ing group Aure­con.

Ver­maak added that if mo­torists con­tin­ued along this path “we will de­stroy our­selves” and the debt would con­tinue to in­crease. “If you think about R40bn debt, it will make SAA look like a walk in the park if you have to bail out San­ral (SA Na­tional Roads Agency) this af­ter­noon. The con­se­quences for us are ter­ri­ble,” he said.

Ver­maak said they had done some stud­ies, which re­vealed that road users were not only upset about e-tolls but also upset with the gov­ern­ment.

“They are un­happy with the way the gov­ern­ment was run and cor­rup­tion. The eas­i­est way peo­ple could make a stand was with the e-tolls. We un­der­stand that,” he said. The pub­lic trans­port modal share had dropped to 38 per­cent from 51 per­cent since mid 1990, while ve­hi­cle own­er­ship had dou­bled since 1994 to 12 mil­lion reg­is­tered users, of which 39 per­cent were in Gaut­eng.

He said 220 cars each day were added to the road net­work and it was con­ser­va­tively es­ti­mated that by 2037 there would be 3.1 mil­lion mo­torised trips in av­er­age peak hour in Gaut­eng.

In a best per­form­ing sce­nario, the av­er­age road net­work speed would drop from 47km/h to 29km/h by 2037 while if they did noth­ing, net­work speeds would drop to be­low 10km/h.

Ver­maak said that this would mean that it would take six hours to travel by road from Jo­han­nes­burg to Pre­to­ria.

He said the re­al­ity was that there were in­suf­fi­cient funds to even main­tain the road net­work and Gaut­eng ac­counted for 40 per­cent of South Africa’s GDP and was key to the eco­nomic growth and devel­op­ment.

“If we sti­fle growth in Gaut­eng, we sti­fle growth in South Africa,” he said.

The an­swer they had for this was the GFIP, stress­ing that it was not e-tolls, which was just a mech­a­nism on how to col­lect money to pay off the debt. He said the to­tal GFIP net­work was planned to be about 600km and there was cur­rently 201km of road un­der this net­work, with fur­ther up­grades not pos­si­ble, be­cause toll road col­lec­tions were only about 30 per­cent.

These mas­sive multi­bil­lion-rand pro­jects could not be funded by the fis­cus, which was un­der huge pres­sure.

He said the sec­ond phase of the GFIP in­volved 158km of new road which would re­lieve con­ges­tion in spe­cific ar­eas, in­clud­ing Sand­ton, link the three main high­ways be­tween Pre­to­ria and Jo­han­nes­burg, and cre­ate 12 000 new jobs.

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