South Africa News

Fikile Mbalula must go find his e-toll money elsewhere – AA

The Automobile Association (AA) has called recent remarks by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on e-tolls “disappointing and out of step with the sentiments of the majority of Gauteng motorists”.

Mbalula said that the controversial project would not be scrapped and that an e-toll funding solution would be found.

The AA has reiterated its long-held view that the e-toll system in its present form will continue to fail as most motorists had taken a stand against making e-toll payments.

Mbalula said all national roads had to be maintained “… which meant the e-toll system cannot be scrapped”.

“The funding model that we have employed as a country for our roads is affected by our attitude towards e-tolls, but we are working on that, and an e-toll solution will be found,” said Mbalula.

The AA said the suggestion that road funding and maintenance is based solely on e-tolls is misleading.

“There are other options available. Scrapping of e-tolls should not, in our view, result in a lack of maintenance and development on the Gauteng freeway. It just means alternative sources of funding must be sought,” said the AA.

The AA’s research on the matter revealed that an overwhelming majority of Gauteng motorists said they would never pay e-tolls under any circumstances.

People have instead proposed the scrapping of the system and reimbursing funds to those who have historically paid.

“We have also called for the ring-fencing of a portion of the existing general fuel levy to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project [GFIP] as a more sustainable funding mechanism for e-tolls,” said the AA.

The GFIP is part of a broader transport problem in the province. Gauteng motorists are being saddled with a financial burden to maintain a major route, but other transport needs are not being met.

“One of these are the costs associated with the Gautrain, which only services transport needs of a minority of citizens and runs contrary to the concept of the user-pays principle which the government advocates,” said the AA.

Last year, the Gauteng transport department paid R1.9 billion to a private company, Bombela, which operates the Gautrain as part of a patronage guarantee.

The patronage guarantee is paid to Bombela if passenger levels on the Gautrain fall below set levels. In 2020, the Gauteng transport budget was R7.7 billion, so the money paid to Bombela consumed 25% of the province’s transport budget.

“Surely, this money will be better spent on servicing projects such as the GFIP, which carries more people daily than the Gautrain?” asked the AA.

The AA is also concerned there’s been no formal decision on the future of e-tolls yet.

In 2019, months before the election, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) announced it would suspend the process of pursuing historical debt owed to it.

“Not since 2019, months before the election, when Sanral announced it would suspend the process of pursuing historical debt owed to it, has anything been officially communicated about the future e-tolls,” said the AA.

“Cabinet must inform the public on what the future of this system is, and it should do so sooner rather than later,” it added.

-The Citizen

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