WHY TARGET E-TOLLS?
Merits of OUTA’s case to oppose and challenge e-tolling of Gauteng’s freeways
SANRAL’s proposed plans to apply an electronic tolling (e-Toll) process to Gauteng Freeways has been labeled by OUTA as irrational, inefficient, costly and largely unworkable.
It was most certainly not planned with the best intentions for the public in mind. This became more evident as OUTA’s supporters engaged rather intensively since 2010 with SANRAL, after learning about their plans to “toll” the Gauteng motorists through a most elaborate system of gantries, complex administrative processes and questionable enforcement mechanisms.
The more we engaged, the more we realised that this plan of SANRAL’s did not attract the necessary levels of engagement and planning that a process of this magnitude required.
We also learned that SANRAL had taken on something far more complex than they could handle. The scheme was fraught with inefficiencies, was extremely costly and ignored far simpler alternative methods of funding, which already exist within Government policy, to finance projects of this nature.
It was also important that in our quest to halt this ill-conceived plan, we remained mindful of the following three points:
We support the need and understand the importance for the GFIP (Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan) and other urban road construction improvements, as and when these become necessary to meet our transportation needs in South Africa.
We support the role of the South African Government in its endeavor to formulate equitable solutions in striving to meet the needs of all its citizens.
OUTA is not against the use of modern e-Tolling technology, which we know works well in many parts of the world.
We challenge this specific e-Toll decision as we believe it was not well researched with regards to efficient administrative systems combined with extremely high levels of public acceptance and effective enforcement mechanisms. Despite our 2012/13 legal review of the decision, which was set aside on technical grounds related to administrative law, the unlawfulness of SANRAL’s when declaring the Gauteng Freeways as tolled roads still requires full ventilation and a proper hearing in court.
It is important to TAKE NOTE that:
Without roads, modern societies grind to a halt. Without adequate and well maintained roads, societies will remain inefficient and uncompetitive. Over time, our roads will require maintenance, repairs, expansion and upgrading – this is a fact of life that we and authorities have the responsibility to plan and provide for – in order to keep pace with a growing economy.
We would like to point out that the Presidential Commission for the Review of State Owned entities recommended in May 2013 (under recommendation #21) that: “Social infrastructure, including roads, should rely less on user pays funding mechanisms and more on normal taxation”.
Until the ill-conceived Gauteng e-toll plan was mooted, urban roads (ie the social infrastructure we use daily to get to and from work, places of worship, schools, sport etc) was paid for using taxes and the fuel levy. This specific e-tolling scheme is regarded as an inefficient, costly and unnecessary additional burden on road users. This forms the overarching basis of our opposition to e-tolling, with a list of more detail about why we oppose e-tolling and the grounds thereof available on this site.
We would like to point out that since OUTA’s inception we have warned of the scheme’s inability to succeed in that:
the scheme would never achieve the required compliance levels (which by international standards should exceed 80% of users paying).
the collection process was too costly (approximately 30% at full compliance) when international administration costs of similar schemes are generally no more than 10%
the scheme relied on inaccurate data fed from the eNatis system which would complicate the collection process
the scheme relied on an extremely efficient postal service
the regulatory environment was not suitable for effective enforcement
Within the first three years of operation, the above factors were significantly evident resulting the the schemes failure to achieve above 25% of it’s revenue needs.
A far more viable alternative
The fuel levy is a current and highly effective government taxation policy, used to take funds directly from road users into the national fiscus, from where Treasury apportions a certain amount to SANRAL for road building. Had the minister of finance simply increased the fuel levy by 9c per litre in 2008 (when the road construction began) when the fuel levy was R1,21 (currently R2, 85), Treasury would have raised R16bn and virtually paid off the capital costs of the GFIP by 2016.
Instead, the scheme has failed to raise any revenue for the bonds and has merely fed the collection process, whilst Government continues to fight its citizens who have rejected the defunct scheme.
Government’s only argument against the Fuel Levy option is that it is anti-poor, yet most economists denounce this claim on the e-toll matter. However, it is also disingenuous for the Government to make this claim in one breath, and then to increase the fuel levy by R1,65 (or 133%) in the past nine years.