OUTA calls for transparency on Huguenot Tunnel plans
Further to SANRAL’s announcement on 8th September of its proposals to finance an upgrade to the Western Cape’s Huguenot Tunnel, while OUTA lauds the decision to keep place with growing traffic and safety requirements, “there is a need for complete transparency on the financing of this project,” says Wayne Duvenage, the Chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA).
We note with interest how the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) is trying to link the Huguenot tunnel project to the tolling of their N1 & N2 Winelands tolling plans, however, the Huguenot Tunnel has been tolled as a separate project for the past 27 years. In that time, the users have long since paid for this capital project and SANRAL has earned billions of rands in “profit” from the ever increasing toll fees collected from motorists and users of the tunnel.
Before the public begin to conduct their own projections, OUTA suggest that SANRAL provides all the information on how much money has been collected every year from the toll proceeds of this tunnel and to declare the “profits” generated from its income, after deducting it past capital costs and maintenance/operations expenses. We estimate that SANRAL has benefited immensely, by several billions of rands in positive cash flow over the years, which begs the question, “why is there now a need for more cash from other/unrelated toll plans to pay for the Huguenot Tunnel upgrade?”
Rough estimations from people who have been monitoring the Huguenot traffic flows, put the tunnel’s toll revenues, after costs, at close on half a billion rand per annum at current tariffs and traffic volumes. If indeed this is the case or even at half this amount, there is no need for additional tolling fees or projects in the area to finance the Huguenot Tunnel upgrade. The past and current users of the tunnel have already paid for this proposed upgrade, several times over and if SANRAL was conducting their affairs correctly, they would have provided for this upgrade project from past collection proceeds. If however they have not provided for the upgrade, they could easily raise the necessary bonds and pay for the tunnel’s development with the current and future tunnel toll proceeds over a several years.
OUTA believes that SANRAL’s entire tolling model throughout the country requires scrutiny, as it is clear in many instances, such as with the Huguenot tunnel, that road users have been overpaying at most of the toll plaza points. The capital projects of many toll projects have long since been paid up, with the agency and its concessionaires having earned earns massive profits from the users, even after the maintenance and operational costs are deducted. This situation clearly suggests that the funds collected from many of the tolling routes is being used to cross-subsidize other projects, placing a serious question over the ‘user-pays’ principle being practiced by SANRAL. In most cases, it’s a situation of ‘users grossly overpaying’ for these roads.