The government has gone back to the drawing board after concerns were raised by the public and across political lines about the gazetted toll tariffs on freeways in Gauteng, set to come into operation in June.
THE gazetted toll tariffs for Gauteng freeways have been suspended until further notice by Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele.
Premier Nomvula MokonyaneCommuters should be given options, says Premier Nomvula MokonyaneThe tariffs were announced on 4 February and were met with widespread criticism. Following concerns from the public, political parties and others regarding the tolling system and the gazetted tariffs, Ndebele suspended them on 22 February.
The Open Road Tolling (ORT) system was to be instituted as a pilot project on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) network by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) in April. It would become fully operational in June.
In a joint statement issued on 22 February by the minister and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who had also expressed reservations in her state of the province address on 21 February, it was noted that they had been listening to these concerns and had decided to further engage on this matter.
As part of this, it was announced that the gazetted tariff for the tolling of the GFIP would be suspended until further notice. In all, 42 electronic toll gates in the form of overhead gantries have been erected on the N1, N3, N12, N17, R21 and R24.
Ndebele and Mokonyane stressed, however, that they agreed on the principle of tolling.
“Government reiterates its commitment to fully honouring the terms of the loan agreement for this transaction. We will also be engaging with the investors to keep them in the loop and assure them that we remain fully committed to the repayment of the R20-billion loan,” they said in their joint statement.
The loan was made to improve the road network in the GFIP and to install the gantries. A task team has been set up comprising members of the Department of Transport, Sanral and the Gauteng provincial government to review the entire financial model on which the transaction is based. It will explore various options to reduce the impact of the cost on road users.
Transport minister Sibusiso NdebeleTask team to be set up: transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele“A structured process of engagement and consultation will be developed … We will shortly announce the task team members as well as the programme of action. We will also announce the process for inputs from members of the public on the cost structure, financial model and options,” the statement noted.
Ndebele said a panel of experts would be appointed to explore options to reduce the toll burden on all road users. The task team will be expected to come up with firm recommendations as soon as possible and the government will also be looking at various short-term improvements in public transport while taking the necessary remedial actions.
Mokonyane said that it would be unfair to say that the government took long before reacting to concerns.
A structured process of consultation and one for input from the public on the cost structure and financial model will soon be announced.
Mokonyane added: “South Africans can be best assured that government is doing everything possible to resolve this matter in a manner that will be in the best interest of the commuter, road user and the state for future development and management of our road infrastructure in the country.”
These consultations would take about a month before the toll system would be rolled out in June. “We need to give commuters options,” she said.
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