The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) and Points of note are intended to provide clarity around some of the more current and topical issues regarding plans to implement e-Tolling in Gauteng
1) Who is SANRAL?
SANRAL stands for the South African National Roads Agency Ltd and they are responsible for the country’s national roads strategy, development and maintenance. They are a State Owned Enterprise – 100% by Government and report to the Minister of Transport. More details about SANRAL at www.nra.co.za
2) What is GFIP?
The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) is the project name given to the upgrade of the main freeway network of 185 kilometers within Gauteng, surrounding Johannesburg and Tshwane. (See more details on www.nra.co.za).
The road construction cost R17,9bn and a further R2,7bn for e-tolling related infrastructure (total R20,6bn).
There are questions about the construction costs of the freeway, whereby in 2006, Sanrals indicated the 185km freeway upgrade would cost R6,8bn. By 2008 when construction started, this cost had risen to R11,4bn and by the time the project was complete, the costs had risen to R17,9bn (excluding e-toll infrastructure). This equates to almost R100 million per kilometer. In 2013, the competition commission exposed collusion within construction companies which had inflated the construction cost of the GFIP. Sanral has expressed their intention to institute claims against these companies, so as to claw back as much of the overcharges as possible. As of 8 Jan 2014, the public have not been notified of developments of this claim by Sanral.
3) Who is OUTA?
OUTA (the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance) was formed in February 2012 as a non-profit organization (NPO – Reg #: 124381NPO), being an association of other bodies, largely involved in the motoring and transport industry, who share a common view about the errors, impracticality and irrationality of the decision to introduce an e-tolling system onto our existing (but upgraded) urban freeways, in Gauteng. These bodies have collectively agreed to tackle this matter through a formalized legal challenge and public information process, the details of which are shared on this web site. OUTA will also communicate actively and share its press releases on the web portal (www.outa.co.za) as well as through its Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/outasa) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/OUTASA) sites.
4) Does OUTA oppose the Freeway Upgrade?
- Not at all. In fact we support the upgrading of all our cities freeways and highway infrastructure, throughout our country, a process which is expected by society in order to keep pace with higher traffic demands of a growing economy. This is the roll of SANRAL and the various regional and municipal roads agencies.
- We do however believe that a through and meaningful public engagement process could very well resulted in a need for les spent on the roads and more on public transport, if indeed we are to address the Gauteng regions transport needs into the future.
- OUTA (along with hundreds of thousands of people who oppose the e-toll decision) is opposed to the decision to toll as the method or mechanism of collecting funds for this urban freeway infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. More about why we oppose this tolling decision below.
5) Why does OUTA oppose e-Tolling?
We have listed the reasons for our opposition to this unjust means of collecting revenue from the public. Click here to see this page.
6) Do I have to buy a tag to travel on the tolled roads?
- No you do not. SANRAL will like to have you believe that this must happen, but there is no law that compels you to purchase or install an e-tag.
- You may also travel on all of Gauteng’s freeways without an e-tag, but the consequences of this is that you will not receive the discounted fee. In this regard, SANRAL will have to post you your road use bill and you will have to settle this directly with them. There is no doubting that this will be of significant administrative burden to SANRAL and in essence, could be the downfall of the system. This is why SANRAL are pleading for as many people as possible to fit tags.
7) Will I be allowed to renew my vehicle license if I don’t buy or use an e-tag?
- The simple answer is YES. It is an absolute fallacy to suggest that cars cannot be relicensed if they do not have an e-tag, as has been commented in the press of late. Comments of this nature may be considered as scare tactics to get road users taged.
- The law says that only those who have a summons against their name for outstanding traffic violations, will not be able to license their car.
- As per the Justice Project of SA:
i. that regulation 59 of the National Road traffic regulations only allows for withholding license discs if the person concerned has outstanding licensing fees or licensing penalties or, in the case of traffic fines, if they have failed to appear in court on a summons for a traffic offence and a warrant of arrest has been issued against them. The only exception to this rule is that under AARTO, a license disk may be withheld if an Enforcement Order has been issued against the party concerned.”
ii. “There is no legislation that compels anyone to buy an e-Tag or register with SANRAL to have monies deducted at will out of their banking accounts. Suggestions that you will be forced to do so or face not having your license disc issued is nothing short of extortion and we take a very dim view of those concerned resorting to this tactic in order to intimidate Gauteng residents into complying with the decrees of all concerned.”
8) How much did the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) cost?
There are two parts to the GFIP project costs but the numbers are always kept vague, so in simple terms and rounding off:-
i. The actual construction cost of the freeway upgrade, interchanges and additional lanes etc. is frequently quoted at R17,9bn.
ii. Sanral indicated in 2006 that the 185 km GFIP would cost around R6,8bn.
iii. In 2008, they revised this cost to R11,4bn and by 2011, the final cost came in at R17,9bn.
iv. Additional e-toll capital costs related to buildings, gantries, hardware etc cost an additional R2,5bn.
9) How much does the e-Toll Collection cost?
- On 18 September 2009, SANRAL awarded the e-toll collections tender to ETC (Electronic Toll Collection JV – 85% owned by Kapsch Trafficom) for just over R10bn, broken down as follows:-
- R1,33bn for the design and build of the works.
- R8,35bn to operate (manage and administer) the e-toll collection system.
- R0.34bn for asset replacement fund.
10) What is the Fuel Levy and why is this a good alternative as per OUTA?
- The Fuel Levy is a tax the government applies to the sale of petrol, which today goes into the national treasury. The fuel levy was initially introduced in the 1970’s to partially support road maintenance and construction costs in a ‘user pays’ principle. Over time, the ring-fencing of the fuel levy was abolished to allow this lucrative source of funding to be channeled to other government needs, initially in the apartheid years to fund an unjust war and pressures of sanctions, while later in our new democracy the fuel levy goes into the tax pot to fund the many other socio-economic issues our government has to deal with.
- This however doesn’t mean that the Government is unable to introduce ring-fencing going forward, to finance specific projects such as GFIP. Ring-fencing is commonly used for a number of other applications such as the Road Accident Fund, the inland Fuel Pipeline etc.
- There are approximately 22bn liters of petrol and diesel sold per annum. We have calculated that an increase of R0.09c per liter to the fuel levy, will raise the approximately R2bn per annum required to fund the R20bn capital requirement and interest (at 9%) costs over a 20 year payback period.
11) Where will the money I pay for e-Tolling go, if it goes ahead?
- Well again, we’re not sure as SANRAL hasn’t given out a lot of detailed information on contracts, costs and revenues but the plan is that all money raised will go to pay back the money borrowed by SANRAL for both the construction work which totals to approximately R20bn, plus around R1,3bn per annum for the toll collection system.
- SANRAL have not confirmed exactly how much money will leave the country and how much will stay in South Africa. Indications are that close to 85% of the profits of e-tolling management will go offshore to Kapsch TrafficCom, an Austrian based organization. Profits made on your taxes (tolling is a tax) is very questionable, as is the payment of 14% VAT on e-tolls. A case of a Tax upon a tax.
- This article has an interesting insight to the flow of funds to Kapsch TrafficCom, reported on 11 June 2013 by Bloomberg.com. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-11/kapsch-says-south-african-toll-road-revenue-boost-coming-in-july.html
12) So what did the Minister of Finance apportionment of R5,8bn (in the recent Budget speech on 15 Feb 2012), pay for?
- As far as we can understand, the Minister allocated R5,8bn of your taxes towards the outstanding SANRAL construction costs debt which means that SANRAL now owes about R14bn for the GFIP construction costs before considering the cost of the e-Toll administration and collection system.
- Obviously, with eTolls not launched on time, much of these funds would have been put toward serving debt and covering pending operating costs.
13) Should the Government simply not pay for the roads with our taxes? Why should we now pay for GFIP when we pay taxes, our annual vehicle license fee, local taxes, a Fuel Levy and long distance tolled routes?
- Well, Government should pay for it but we understand that the money has to be found somewhere given the borrowed money raised through Bonds (provided by the Government Pension Fund) was spent on the upgrade. OUTA and its members have suggested that in the instance of the GFIP, the public (road users) would be more willing to support the use of the Fuel Levy and other funding schemes to help pay not only for GFIP but also other major road projects across the country.
- Government would be wise to engage with interested stakeholders and agree which roads are the priority and why? Who decides what gets done to which road? Nobody other than Government seems to decide, but are they the best people? Surely many of the associations representing road users could be involved? After all they and other users pay for the improvements.
14) SANRAL say that the new GFIP roads will generate hundreds of billions of savings for the road users who drive on these roads and pay the e-Tolls. What does this mean?
- SANRAL have claimed that road users travelling on GFIP will enjoy the following benefits: (i) Time Savings, (ii) Reduced vehicle expenses due to better roads and (iii) Less accidents. The only problem is that the extent of the savings of +R200bn over 20 years is all based on an economic study which made use of SANRAL information and has not being independently reviewed.
- The cost benefit ratio of 8,4 to 1, as espoused by Roelof Botha has been questioned by many economists and subsequent to the completion of the roads, SANRAL have not conducted measurements to confirm whether these benefits initially espoused have been realized.
- None of the major business or civil associations interviewed for their opinions agree with this return. Indeed the Minister of Transport (Sbu’Ndebele) himself has suggested a lot concern about the claimed benefits from the claims made in the report and has referred this matter of GFIP savings to a Cabinet Task Team, from whom we have not heard anything from since. (see National Assembly GFIP benefit question reply (no 2598) )
15) How much will I pay going through a gantry?
- The e-toll tariffs have been published and these are approximately charged at a cost of R0.30c per KM for a light vehicle which has an e-tag and is registered with ETC. This cost increased by almost double if no tag is fitted but the vehicle is registered with ETC (using the vehicle license number – VLN) and if paid within 7 days. Those who do not register with ETC and do not pay within seven days, will pay a rate almost 6 times higher than the e-tagged rate, but these charges are reduced if payment is made within 30 days.
- Remember, your payment is dependent on the distance between two gantry’s. So if the distance between two gantries is 10 kilometers and the rate is 30cents per kilometer, you will be charged R3 when you drive under the gantry. There are different distances between some of the different gantries so not all the gantries will cost R3. Some will be slightly more and some slightly less.
- There are different rates for motor cycles and trucks, plus time of day discounts.
- The Gazette which contains the tariffs can be found here.
16) SANRAL have said that commuter buses and taxis are exempt from tolling, is this true?
- Initially, mini-bus taxis were to be charged R0.11 cents per KM (see GFIP Steering Committee report – June 2011), but since their views of outrage were expressed, SANRAL decided to exempt them under the guise that they tprovide a transport solution for the poor. Why this view was not expressed from the outset and only introduced once their objections were expressed, displays some degree of disingenuous reaction to the situation.
- Public Transport busses and some categories of emergency vehicles are also exempt.
17) SANRAL and the Government have said that ‘the poor’ won’t really feel the impact, why do they say this?
- What is the definition of poor? If one earns R10,000 gross salary and take home R7,000 and have monthly bills of R6,500 am I rich or poor because I have a spare R450, which will now disappear is I travel the e-toll routes frequently to earn my salary. Now I’m R50 in further debt.
- It is a fallacy for SANRAL and its supporters to say that the tolls are used over 90% by the people who can afford it. Tell that to the single mother school teacher or nurse who is struggling to get by and needs to drive her car along the freeways of Gauteng, the same ones she has used for years and contributed to from her taxes and fuel levies.
- It’s a fallacy to think that the poor do not have cars and do not use the highways.
- It’s a fallacy to think that the impact of tolling will not impact on the poor in other areas such as knock-on effect of price increases and job losses as a result of e-tolling costs.
18) COSATU have said they are against the e-Tolls because its ‘economic apartheid’, what do they mean?
- As we understand it, if you own a car but you can’t afford the e-Tolls to travel on the GFIP roads then you have no choice but to either try to use some alternative roads or public transport. Almost everyone agrees, except the Minister of Transport, that there are no real reliable, safe and efficient alternatives available to somebody in Gauteng who must commute daily between home and work. As a car owner, it simply means that if you can’t afford to pay for e-Tolls which means you are ‘poor’ (?), you must then drive along congested and damaged secondary roads while the ‘rich’ who can afford to pay e-Tolls can drive on nice new roads. It also means logically, that if you can just about afford a car (and not e-Tolls) after travelling for many years in a minibus taxi and you need to travel on GFIP roads, well SANRAL want you to rather go back to traveling in the taxi or other alternative public transport?
19) What should I do if I oppose e-Tolls?
- Speak to your local councilor, write letters to newspapers, SANRAL and Ministers, join blogs opposing e-Tolls, discuss your concerns amongst your friends and work colleagues, phone into radio shows and discuss your concerns, go to the SANRAL website and read all the details about what is involved. To have an opinion, you need information. This OUTA website is intended to try and help you understand the issues and you are welcome to become an OUTA supporter, visit the Donate here page on this web site.
- Do not buy an e-Tag, unless you feel it necessary to do so to earn the discount offered. If you can afford the full rate, let SANRAL do the work to get your bill to you. Invoices must be mailed to you and you have every right to question your use of this road, if indeed you are not sure that (a) you used the road and (b) that someone else was using this road in a similar car to yours, with cloned number plates.
- Since launching, e-toll problems with erroneous billing queries, incorrect details, wrong dates have been numerous. The call centers are inundated with complaints and the e-toll systems are not operating efficiently.
- The Bill of Rights specifically guarantees the right of freedom of concience. However no one can dictate to anyone else’s conscience. Freedom of conscience means exactly that, with the emphasis on freedom. One can stir the conscience of others by sharing experiences of injustice, exploitation, and asking hard questions, but ultimately the decision must be left up to an individual to make given their specific circumstances.
- The international and local human rights principle of “prior, free (meaningful and fair) informed consent” is at stake. OUTA has argued from the outset that the declaration of the relevant roads as tolled freeways was made without that principle having been honoured, and consequently users of a public road are paying for something that they were never consulted about. The very fact that there is now such overwhelming opposition is in itself evidence of that failure.
The decision to pay or not is entirely left to the individual. All indications are that after two months of launch, SANRAL have only 25% of vehicles using the freeways with e-tags in them. Of the 75% who don’t, we expect the majority will not be paying for the use of the freeways. This is turn will cause the system to fall short of their revenue targets and collapse.