The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance notes with increasing alarm, the apparently worsening state of the urban public transport systems in Gauteng.
Despite the poor safety issues (highlighted again by avoidable deaths from the recent collisions involving Metro rail trains and busses), the sheer lack of reliable public transport to cater for the flexible needs of the country’s workforce, means that vehicles and roads will remain by far, the most viable option to commuters for years to come. The authorities now need to act with significant plans and haste to address this growing problem.
Considering that South Africa has a growing middle class society, one is not surprised by the growth in the number of vehicles from five million to eleven million vehicles over two decades since 1994, as expressed by the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, on 5th May 2015.
One imagines that when the President’s committee that reviewed state owned entities in 2013, the pressure exerted on the commuting public must have been top of mind when the committee recommended that ‘social infrastructure, including roads, should be funded more by normal taxation and less through a user-pays mechanism’.
Taking all the above into account, it is not difficult to understand why the Gauteng e-toll system has been out-rightly rejected by society, aside from its high costs and gross inefficiencies. Sanral assured the public that alternative, safe, reliable and affordable public transport systems would be in place when e-tolling commenced, yet all evidence to date contradicts that assurance. Besides the risk to life and limb that public transport commuters have to endure, the endless strike action and failure by the authorities to find a durable accord with the bus drivers has resulted in the cure being worse than the disease.
Our fragile economy cannot afford the productivity losses and disruption in the workplace due to the absence of safe, affordable and reliable transport systems. The time has come for all those with influence and responsibility to now get around the table and face the facts. Things are bad, but not irretrievable, so long as we can start working together for the greater good of all and government starts to pay attention to and embrace their critics.