E-tolling gets more qualified support

Qualified support for Gauteng’s e-tolling system

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Qualified support for Gauteng’s e-tolling system is growing, with Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) being the latest industry body to acknowledge that the user-must-pay principle should apply as long as the public had an alternative to using the province’s toll roads.

This support comes in the wake of other position statements made on e-tolling by the country’s largest logistics service provider, Imperial Logistics, and the Road Freight Association (RFA) – both of which are mentioned in Road Ahead Online.

“Amid the furore and the fact that this matter is sub judice, Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) is in support of tolling South Africa’s national freeways and, in particular, we support the principle of user-pays for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project,” Cesa said in a position statement, referring to an interministerial commission of enquiry into the matter, headed by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe.

“While there are various methods to fund major infrastructure, it is imperative to weigh up the cost of providing a service and who ultimately pays for the service against the level of service provided. It is important that the government acknowledges its responsibility to provide a basic and acceptable level of service for, among others: water, sanitation, housing, communication, energy, education, health and mobility."

Cesa says that where mobility is concerned, there is an obligation on national government, provincial government and local government to agree on the level of basic service, and who provides what and at what cost. The provision of road infrastructure for urban use is the responsibility of provincial and local government, which work in collaboration with South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to provide adequate services.

“One of the reasons for congestion of the national routes as they bypass urban centres is that the national road networks are designed to be integrated with the urban networks, allowing urban users easy access to use national road facilities that could be reserved for long-distance, high-speed users.

“We are fortunate in South Africa to have alternate roads to most, if not all, our national tolled roads. The basic principle is that national freeways are designed to move large volumes of preferably high-occupancy vehicles, long distances with the required level of safety, speed and emergency services that may be needed. The complication comes in when the national freeway systems pass through urban centres and ‘join’ with local urban traffic.”

Cesa says mixed use is a sensible approach, as SA cannot afford the luxury of separate systems.

“Accordingly, urban users must pay the required charges if they wish to use national freeway infrastructure with the concomitant higher level of service this infrastructure provides. Generally, urban users have access to alternate road infrastructure, but these are often inadequate from a congestion, quality, safety and emergency access point of view.”

CESA’s position is for those commuters who wish to use the upgraded facilities of the Gauteng freeways, which provide a higher level of service from a safety, accessibility, speed, reduced congestion, lighting and rideability point of view, the principle of user-pays by the implementation of a tolling system is the right way to go, “provided that there is at least one alternative available to users which meets a basic minimum level of service at no cost to users”.

The Department of Transport gazetted the draft toll tariffs and regulations for the e-tolling system on October 26, allowing a 30-day period for public comment, which will end with Motlanthe’s review on November 26.

Light vehicles fitted with e-tags will pay a discounted rate of 30c/km and motorcycles with devices installed will pay 18c/km. Unregistered motorists will pay double that rate if they don't register. The base tariff for light vehicles remains 58c/km against an initial base rate of 66c/km.

Non-articulated trucks fitted with an e-tag will pay 75c/km and articulated trucks R1.50/km.

In addition to discounts awarded to those who install e-tags in their vehicles, time-of-day discounts will also be implemented.

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