Public sessions reject e-tolls
The conclusion of the third and final e-toll public information session on e-toll tariffs and exemptions, hosted by SANRAL and the Department of Transport in Sunninghill last night, delivered a clear and unambiguous rejection, by the public, of e-tolls.
The chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA), Wayne Duvenage, felt that this week’s hearings "had clearly vindicated their long held view that no proper consultation process had ever been undertaken. Clearly SANRAL’s initial public engagement process in 2007, which consisted of 1 advert placed in 6 newspapers and which elicited 28 responses from the public, was inadequate. If this was SANRAL’s view of constructive public engagement, they failed dismally.”
Responding to the COSATU’s call for a legal and organised strike action on November 30th, Duvenage said that “the protest was likely to draw thousands of Gauteng residents who previously would never contemplate such public protest but are now fired up and brimming with frustration to seize this opportunity to send a message to the authorities on this highly emotive matter.”
Some of the key e-toll themes that consistently emerged from the public this week were that;
No proper consultation has ever taken place.
A lack of transparency of information (ie: project costs, revenues, contracts, tolling models)
No communication of the financial model to explain why e-tolling is better for society than the Fuel Levy.
Safe, reliable, efficient and affordable alternative public transport is sorely lacking in Gauteng and must first be in place.
Alternative roads are either often in much need of repair or not practical.
Tariff caps and exemptions defeat the purpose of user pay in contrast to the Fuel Levy which is pure user pay.
The poor (not yet defined by SANRAL) will not be protected.
Government has an obligation to build roads for its people.
The citizens do not trust SANRAL/Government.
This week’s public information session was also very unclear regarding the enforcement procedures for those who do not pay the proposed e-toll tariffs. When queried about how the debt collection of unpaid e-tolls would be managed, within an already severely stretched and backlogged judicial system, and then integrated into either the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) or Criminal Procedures Act (CPA), SANRAL responded vaguely leading one with an impression that this is clearly an area they are ‘looking into’.
Despite OUTA’s initial positive engagement with the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC), we remain concerned that their recommendations to Cabinet last month have not yet been made public. OUTA calls on Government to take the public into their confidence and publish the IMC’s detailed recommendations.
Similarly, given the extent of participation and voluminous submissions by the public to date, OUTA calls on the Government to ensure that the engagement summaries or recommendations from this current information sharing process are also made public before being submitted to the Minister of Transport. This action will help public confidence and assure them that the clear rejection of e-tolls, tariffs and exemptions, by the public, is adequately reflected in the report.
OUTA continues to claim that e-tolling, despite counter claims during the legal process by both SANRAL and Government, has never been ready for implementation to date, due to various regulatory and technical shortfalls which remain unresolved to date.
OUTA looks forward to the start of the e-toll judicial review on November 26 and encourages the public to continue making e-toll submissions to ensure their voice is heard.