SANRAL at fault in e-tolling failure
OUTA's chairman, Wayne Duvenage rejected SANRAL's recent comments that the e-toll litigation has disrupted their e-tolling plans. “In reality, SANRAL failed to implement e-tolling on three separate occasions in 2011 - prior to OUTA's existence,” he commented.
Duvenage said that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) represented the world's largest e-tolling system and in order to launch, besides a meaningful public engagement process, this also required the preparation of a robust regulatory framework. Current law only provides for tolling the road user and not the vehicle owner. SANRAL has sought to change this via one of the amendments in the Transport and Related Matters Amendment Bill (currently before the National Council of Provinces for deliberation), so as to be able to charge and prosecute the vehicle owner instead of the user or driver. OUTA believes there could be constitutional challenges against this amendment, if it is passed.
”Until such time as these amendments have however been passed, SANRAL could never have implemented e-tolling, which was one of the issues we pointed out in the court challenge,” Duvenage said. “Against this background, we are interested in why SANRAL has repeatedly told the courts it was ready to implement e-tolling virtually on a whim. It is now eight months after the Constitutional Court set aside the temporary interdict, allowing SANRAL to begin with tolling hearing on e-tolling, which they argued it could and would commence e-tolling within two weeks if the court found in its favour.”
“OUTA's view is that regulatory matters should have been addressed prior to the initial launch date of e-tolling in 2011 and certainly by April 2012,” Duvenage said. “Despite SANRAL's claims in the Concourt last year, it is still scrambling to implement the laws it needs to enforce e-tolling,” he commented. He said SANRAL's proposed regulation on tolling vehicle owners still ignores the reality of incorrect vehicle owner details in eNatis and the widespread fake number plates and cloned vehicle identities which will still be a significant problem for SANRAL and one which the e-tag process is unalble to fully overcome.
He added that the failure of the Department of Transport to implement AARTO will mean e-tolling prosecutions can only take place in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act. With over two million e-tolling transactions a day predicted for Gauteng's freeways, a non-compliance rate of just 7% would result in 140 000 new criminal incidents per day.
Duvenage said there was no prospect of AARTO being implemented within a reasonable time frame and that the criminal justice system does not have the capacity to deal with a deluge of thousands of e-tolling cases per month. “We have maintained before and continue to state that E-tolling is unworkable and unenforceable,” Duvenage said.