Cape toll ruling could put Gauteng under spotlight

Cape Town - Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) chairperson Wayne Duvenage has lauded the Western Cape High Court's ruling to set aside road agency Sanral's decision to toll highways in the Western Cape.

"We think it is an excellent ruling and we think it is going to open up a lot of conjecture and a lot of concern around the Gauteng decision as well," Duvenage told Fin24 on Wednesday.

"Outa congratulates the City of Cape Town for taking a stand and defending the rights of citizens to enjoy toll-free urban roads, which are essential for daily commuting and the development of the economy," the civil rights body said in a statement.

It was a "ludicrous idea" for the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to accept "an unsolicited bid to toll the Western Cape's freeways in the first place", said Duvenage.

"The high costs of toll administration, the exorbitant construction costs, and the guaranteed enrichment of a concessionaire consortium can only be dubbed as an outrageous scheme, to say the least," said Outa.

The body criticised Sanral for being "extremely remiss" in some areas of its research and "extremely lax" in its involvement of society and other government structures in some of their projects. This, according to Outa, has given rise to many court challenges as well as the need for costly corrective action.

"The judge certainly got it right in a judgment which sheds light on the incorrect and appalling procedures implemented by Sanral, who have far too often ignored the very people expected to pay the unjust tolls linked to important public infrastructural development."

Outa said its research has highlighted many questions to be asked of Sanral in connection with unsolicited bids and past regulatory amendments to the Sanral Act. These actions, according to Outa, have left the public poorer while enriching "a few concessionaires".

"The authorities' actions are effectively introducing a new questionable and unjustified tax on the people of this country," said Outa.