The Automobile Association has rejected the recommendations of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan (GFIP) Steering Committee as announced by the committee chairman to the media last week.
In a media statement last week, the chairman of the committee, Mr. George Mahlalela stated “It was made clear at the outset that the principle of tolling has been accepted, and that the matter under review was the proposed tariff of 66c/km, initially suggested as the charge for a vehicle without an e-tag account.”
At no stage during the consultation process was it stated that the principle of tolling was an already accepted view and that the debate should be centred on the tariff to be imposed.
Government has once again failed its’ citizens by promising fair and transparent process but not delivering on its promise.
“The composition of the committee was limited to government officials only and we believe that this has led to a bias towards an already decided outcome while the consultation process was merely a measure to appease aggrieved organisations and the public”, said the AA.
The AA is concerned that motorists will take an obstructive approach in refusing to carry e-tags thus forcing the maximum administrative burden on government to bill individuals which further raises unnecessary costs of toll collection.
“The AA insists that the second phase of the GFIP be put on hold until proper consultation occurs.
Gauteng MEC Vadi has already indicated that the second phase may be put on hold – a decision the AA will welcome. The errors made in respect of Phase 1 should not be allowed to repeat themselves in Phase 2 and the AA welcomes MEC Vadi’s call to proceed with caution”, the AA continued.
Phase 2 of the GFIP (an additional 223km) will see the N14 Krugersdorp Highway, a section of the M1 (Woodmeade to Sandton), the N14 Ben Schoeman Highway into Pretoria, N3 to Heidelburg, the R59 and N12 (Nancefield towards Potchefstroom) and the remaining un-tolled section of the N4 Pretoria towards Diamond Hill all potentially funded through tolls.
The AA has repeatedly called on the Ministries of Transport and Finance to give full public disclosure on the full cost of the GFIP from inception, the appointment process of the toll collection agency and how the tax revenue from the sale of petroleum fuel for road use is being spent. To date no reply has been received.
The AA is still of the view that the debt incurred so far for the GFIP should be serviced from a portion of the fuel levy over the term of the loans.
A return to a ring-fenced fuel levy for road maintenance and construction is vital in order to address the very serious maintenance backlog.. Poor road conditions account for almost ten percent of road crashes annually – more than double the internationally accepted norm. At least 14 000 lives are lost and more than 219 000 serious injuries are caused every year through road crashes on South African roads – which places a heavy burden on the economy.
The public comment from Treasury that ring-fencing levies causes inefficiencies in spending, raises questions around the current method when it is revealed that the backlog in road maintenance and construction is estimated at an astronomical R149 billion by SANRAL. In 2008 the AA Road Maintenance and Funding report warned of the imminent collapse of the road network when the backlog was estimated at R110 billion. Continuous underfunding over many years has resulted in an almost 50% increase in the associated maintenance cost over the last three years.
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1126