Tolling policy causing roads decay

17 November 2014

Tolling orientated road funding approach accelarating decay of non-tolled roads

South Africa's tolling-orientated road funding approach is accelerating the decay of non-tolled roads. This is the view of the Automobile Association which was commenting on the news that the enquiry panel into the effects of Gauteng's e-tolling system had concluded its consultation phase.

"In 2010, we wrote to the then-Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, to raise our concern that municipalities were spending money destined for roads maintenance on other things," the AA said. "Minister Gordhan replied that although municipalities had been advised to use these funds for roads 'where possible', they could not be compelled to do so."

The Association said inadequate municipal road funding was repeated at provincial level, leading to many roads being in such poor condition that they were dangerous to use. "A change of policy is needed, but it appears to suit government's tolling-focused agenda to leave the second- and third-tier roads to decay in order to increase traffic on tolled routes."

The AA commented that all roads had economic benefit, whether a municipal street, a provincial road or a freeway. The Association said that for a person or company to be able to use a freeway, access was required via safe, well-maintained feeder routes. "The poor road conditions in many parts of the country work against this and we hold the view that major arterials - whether tolled or not - do not provide economic growth in isolation - it is an area's road network as a whole which delivers the benefit," the AA added.  

The Association also said that the motorist's inability to oppose the spread of national tolled roads since the 1980s seemed to have led government and SANRAL into the false belief that tolling could also expand to commuter routes without resistance. "But as we have seen in Gauteng, that is not the case."

The AA referred to its research which showed that the general state of South Africa's roads was below standard. It said that the country could not continue to pamper a minority of tolled arterials while under-funded provincial and urban feeder routes were exposed to accelerated deterioration and increased crash risk as a result of traffic trying to avoid tolls."We need to move beyond tolling and develop more cost-effective ways to maximise the economic potential of roads and ensure safe road travel across the Republic," the Association concluded.

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