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BY CAROL PATON: Published:2012/06/05 06:42:04 AM
OUTA says Sanral is still not ready to launch e-tolls on Gauteng’s highways
THE South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is still not ready to launch e-tolls on Gauteng’s highways and the government’s claims of urgency are untrue as tolling has been postponed four times, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said in court papers yesterday.
In an unusual move, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his colleagues approached the Constitutional Court directly to appeal against a high court ruling, in favour of Outa, that the government’s decision to toll the roads should be reviewed.
In its responding affidavit, the anti-toll organisation also pointed to inconsistencies in the financing of the highway improvement project and the payments to be levied on users.
Outa capitalised on the government divisions and policy seesawing over e-tolling, saying that the government’s claims that it could under no circumstances be postponed again rang hollow as the transport minister himself “had announced a postponement of e-tolling during argument in court, before the interdict had been handed down”.
The affidavit also quoted Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin as acknowledging the mistakes of e-tolling and accusing Sanral of having misled the minister of transport.
The Treasury, Sanral and several other government parties argued in their affidavit that the order for a judicial review, handed down in the North Gauteng High Court in April, “overstepped the line” of judicial authority.
But Outa said Judge Bill Prinsloo’s interdict was an “interim” measure pending a judicial review, and therefore did not prevent the government from governing in a permanent way.
The core argument against e-tolling remained what Outa and its fellow respondents — including the South African Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, the Quadpara Association, South African National Consumer Union and National Consumer Commission — described as the “exorbitant” costs of collection. While preparing their response to the appeal, they found the se were even greater than first assumed.
Outa finally had obtained a copy of the five-year contract between the Electronic Toll Collection consortium and Sanral. It has a value of R8,3bn — or R1,6bn a year. “Taken over 20 years, this means the cost of collection is in fact R33,4bn … road users will pay much more for toll collection than for the road upgrade.”
Responding to comments in Business Day by Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile that collection costs were not static and would drop from 75% to 20% of total revenue within five years, Outa said it “persists with its assertion that the e-toll model will carry unreasonable costs and an administrative burden for all”.
“Outa has yet to be convinced that the … costs will be less than R20bn over 20 years and, in all likelihood, could be much higher, particularly in the absence of any clear enforcement procedures .”
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