Toll Gates a done deal - Ndebele

Pretoria - Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says the new toll gate system on major Gauteng roads is a done deal and that it is just a matter of time before it is implemented.

"It's done. The tolls are there, the money has been spent and decisions have been taken," Ndebele said at an Infrastructure Development Cluster media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday.

The tolls between Pretoria and Johannesburg are expected to be up and running in the next five months.

Last week, Cabinet approved the revised fee structure for the toll system, instructing Ndebele to effect the approval in terms of the SA National Roads Agency Limited and National Roads Act.

While the implementation of the system has sparked fierce criticism and opposition from motorists, Ndebele is adamant that the user pay principle, which he said was common in all major and emerging economies across the world, will be enforced.

"The debate about nationalising the department cannot be encouraged ... You cannot expect someone in Lusikisiki (in the Eastern Cape) to pay for a road that is in Johannesburg. So the issue of nationalising the department is not in the picture at all," he said in response to calls that the debt incurred as a result of provincial toll gates should be paid for from the taxpayers' purse.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited had borrowed more than R20 billion to roll out the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project and has introduced the toll system to repay the loan.
Motorcycles would pay 24 cents a kilometre, light motor vehicles 40 cents, medium vehicles R1, and "longer" vehicles R2 a kilometre.

In addition to the 31% e-tag discount, other discounts applicable would be the time of day discount available to all vehicles, and a frequent user discount for motorcycles and light motor vehicles fitted with an e-tag.

Qualifying commuter taxis and buses would be exempted entirely, a decision Ndebele said was taken to avoid the costs being passed to commuters.

Meanwhile, the minister also announced that his department and the National Treasury were in talks to create a 'rural transport grant' as part of efforts to speed up improvements in the public transport system of the country's rural areas. Such a grant would also serve as a long term commitment to the country's public transport strategy as adopted by government.

"With regard to the improvement of strategic roads and implementation of the Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework of South Africa, National Treasury and the Transport Department have rolled out the provincial road maintenance grant to the value of more than R22 billion," he said.

More than R6 billion of the money, meant to eradicate potholes across the country, has already been allocated to provinces, with Ndebele saying individual premiers were expected to outline their spending on the projects in a meeting to take place in Cape Town next week.

"I am meeting with them and each premier will have to say where and how the money was spent to improve the condition of the roads and if people were employed, how many."

The funding is on top of the R30 billion that government is spending over the next three years to upgrade the country's ageing rail system.

- BuaNews