“The appointment of a panel to look into the impact of the e-tolls and its user-payer system wasted more money which could have been channelled towards building and maintaining roads in the townships where drainage systems are forever blocked,” said EFF provincial spokesman Ntobeng Ntobeng in a statement.

He was reacting following the release of the panel’s findings this week.

The panel was set up on July 17 by Gauteng premier David Makhura to examine the economic and social impact of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project following calls for it to be scrapped.

The panel found that the e-toll system placed a burden on low and middle income households and was unaffordable

It made over 50 recommendations, including that the system be reviewed to address affordability and sustainability.

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Ntobeng called on motorists to use public roads without paying e-tolls.

“As EFF correctly observed, the whole [e-toll] project is corrupt and the government wants to force community members to pay a huge bill which the ANC government created without consultation with road users,” said Ntobeng. The EFF in Gauteng is of the view that the e-tolls paying system should be completely scrapped, the government must find money to pay for the debt they created.”

Road infrastructure is a crucial driver of economic growth: panel

The e-toll panel is adamant that road infrastructure is a crucial driver of economic growth, it was reported in the advisory panel’s recommendations to the Gauteng government.

Recommendations

“The Panel has considered all representations, arguments for and against e-tolls and alternative scenarios. The Panel is of the view that elements of the e-toll project should be reviewed and its immediate recommendations are:

“a) A mixed source of revenue streams

The proposed sources of revenue to contribute to the debt repayment, and raise future funding may include:

• A reasonable portion of funding from the provincial fiscus sourced from goods and services
budgets of departments, without impacting on service delivery budgets. This would demonstrate commitment from the Gauteng Provincial Government to investment in transport infrastructure as a driver of economic growth.

• A reduced cap e-toll accompanied by exemptions for progressivity and traffic demand management instruments to incentivise behavioural change, bearing in mind that a model of single driver private cars is simply unsustainable.

• A ring fenced national fuel levy for the benefit of investment in a national integrated transport system, as part of the total road network, and prioritisation of public transport.

• Increasing and ring fencing the cost of road advertising along the toll routes

• Ring fencing a portion of any increase in motor vehicle license fees for investment in transport infrastructure and progressively increasing the fee for increased axle weight and luxury vehicles

• Increasing fees for tyres

• Recovery of funds from the construction industry in the quest to mitigate costs

Fuel levy option may not be advisable

The option of a fuel levy for Gauteng may not be advisable due to the complexity of implementation, the likelihood of cross border refuelling in the event of application of a fuel levy at the pump.

Progressive personal income tax

The option of increased corporate and personal income tax may not be advisable in view of the competing demands on the fiscus, and the announcement in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement of the intention to increase taxes. However a progressive personal income tax could be contemplated to shift the burden for infrastructure investment to the wealthy.

“b) Traffic demand management

A single driver private car model resulting in increased congestion and gridlock, together with the adverse climate change impacts of urban transport are simply unsustainable. 

A single driver private car model resulting in increased congestion and gridlock, together with the adverse climate change impacts of urban transport are simply unsustainable

Substantive proposals include:

• Revisit proposals of retrofitting one or more lanes on sections of the tolled routes for HOV vehicles of 3 passengers or more. An option of increase law enforcement to achieve voluntary compliance at the point of passage under dedicated lanes at each gantry point could also be considered.

• Implementation of park and ride schemes to facilitate car pooling and bus transport, and facilitating the establishment of highly-visible public transport services specifically aimed at providing alternatives to tolled routes.

• Immediate introduction of a single ticketing system to facilitate easy use of existing public transport.

• Greater differentiation of the tariff at peak to spread the peak and reduce congestion.

• Greater differentiation of tariffs to incentivise behavioural change to fuel efficient and low engine capacity vehicles.

• Immediate establishment of a traffic authority.

“c) Social impact and exemptions

The legacies of apartheid spatial planning has indeed resulted in a disproportionate financial burden on the lower income households who have no option other than private transport, who live in the periphery and travel longer distances from home to work. The cost of heavy reliance on taxis with limited bus and rail access requires an improvement on the social impact strategy and exemptions. There are additional categories where removal of the financial burden of e-tolls is warranted.

Substantive proposals include:

• Complete exemption for low-income vehicle owners based on presentation of reasonable evidence. Most desirable would be to link the e-NATIS vehicle ownership information to the SARS database.

• Complete exemption for HOV vehicles including taxis, scholar transport, registered vehicles of people with disabilities and vehicles of NGO’s doing charitable work. The implication of this is that the e-tolls administration should not be used as a proxy for regulation of the taxi industry.

• Consideration of switching off gantries for periods of time over weekends to allow unhindered movement for religious, cultural and family reasons.

” d) Administration of e-tolls

The Panel is cognizant of the major opposition to e-tolls in their current form, amongst others due to the perceived overhead costs of administration. However, the GFIP Steering Committee established in 2011 found, in benchmarking international best practice, that the overhead costs of administration was not exorbitant. It should also be borne in mind that the administrative costs decline with economies of scale and therefore are artificially high at present.

The alternative of a fuel Levy is indiscriminate with respect to immediate equity impacts on low, medium and high income households.

Substantive proposals include:

• Issuance of a tag to all vehicle owners at the time of motor vehicle license renewal to facilitate full realisation of the Intelligent Transport Systems capability. It would be desirable for the tag to be credited with the capped fee for the first month to avoid any risk of penalties arising from non-payment and to allow the user to become familiar with the capabilities of the tag.

• Clear communication of a single system for reloading of the tag similar to a pre-paid electricity metre or cell phone which is familiar to users.

• Determination of a flat rate per gantry and elimination of all “alternative tariffs” to remove complexity and the accompanying disputes due to variable discounts.

• Removal of all penalty fees to remove the additional administrative burden.

• Removal of all postal administration and the accompanying overhead administrative costs of postal billing.

• Subject to a balance with other traffic demand measures, switching off gantries that provide access to low income areas and/or where viable alternative routes do not exist.

• Implementation of a plan for payment of arrears for all non-compliant users based on actual usage at the e-tagged rate and without application of penalties.”

Source: SAPA and http://www.gautengonline.gov.za/