SANRAL’s recent claim that a new quality of life survey by Gauteng City Region Observatory – GCRO suggests that motorists are not opposed to the payment of e-tolls, is desperate propaganda and a classic case of twisting the findings of research to suit their agenda.
Sanral quotes “A key finding is that road users who are satisfied with the quality of the roads are more likely to pay”, noting that “34% of those who are satisfied with roads agree with the statement … and 42% disagree, indicating a willingness to pay”.
What is actually happening here is that Sanral is attempting to conflate the new road upgrade with the payment of e-tolls. No-one really denounces the need for the freeway upgrade which took place from 2008 to 2011, however, the vast majority of Gauteng motorists believe the introduction of the irrational and inefficient e-toll scheme is uncalled for and unacceptable. This is borne out in the low compliance levels, which OUTA estimates at being less than 25% on average since the inception of e-tolls in December 2013.
The fact that less people are avoiding the freeway to evade tolls does not mean more acceptance thereof. Instead, it means that more people care less about the e-toll scheme and don’t pay anyway and thus have given up avoiding the freeway. Furthermore, following SANRAL’s claims in 2015 that 46,000 e-tags were issued to the taxi industry (to ensure their exemption status is applied), OUTA conducted research at various taxi ranks, only to find that less than 1% of taxi’s in Gauteng had e-tags fitted to the vehicles. Interviews with the taxi industry at the time indicated they were non-the wiser to these developments and there was a feeling of not caring whether e-tags were required or not, they were simply not going to pay for e-tolls. In other words, even those who are exempt from the scheme have shunned it.
If indeed the public were in support of paying e-tolls – as Sanral claims – why then has the compliance been so low? Why also, was there less than 5% uptake in their recent 60% discount dispensation which ran for 6 months?
Over the past few years, there have been many surveys to gauge public sentiment about the payment of tolls on Gauteng’s freeways. These have all indicated an overwhelming majority of Gauteng road users indicating they will not pay e-tolls. The most recent survey conducted by Wheels24, was conducted in early May 2016 when the Transport Department gave a 10 day extension to the 6 month discount dispensation period. 91 % of those participating out of a total of 38721 respondents said they would “not pay” or “will never pay” for e-tolls, when asked that “given a 60% discount, are you more likely to pay your outstanding e-toll debt?”
“We believe it is about time that Sanral came to terms with failure of Gauteng’s e-toll scheme. As a user pays mechanism, it was grossly flawed, poorly researched and has failed to even pay for the collection process, let alone being able to service the R20 billion bonds borrowed for the capital injected into the road upgrade and toll system,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s Chairperson. “No amount of spin is going to change the publics minds on e-tolls, aside from the fact that OUTA, Cosatu, the business associations and faith based communities continue to highlight the serious flaws and objections to the scheme.”