Scrapping e-tolls in Gauteng would be devastating to the province’s development and the country’s economy.
This is according to Electronic Tolling Collections (ETC) chief project officer, Coenie Vermaak.
Vermaak’s comments come after newly elected ANC provincial secretary Jacob Khawe called for the tolling system to be done away with.
“If the toll income stream stops, Sanral would have to pay its debt of around R40-billion back to investors,” said Vermaak.
As Sanral would most likely not have the funds, it would fall on government to bail the organisation out.
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Vermaak said the government will be forced to cover the R40-billion in debt, which is the equivalent of a one percent increase in VAT.
“Government would have to find extraordinary reasons to write off this debt,” said Vermaak.
He also believes compliant drivers, who paid their tolls from the start, would demand a refund putting further strain on government.
However, the issue at hand is not just the financial outfall.
“All current and future tolling projects will be at risk,” said Vermaak.
“Sanral would not be able to deliver on its mandate as required which is building new roads.”
He added that there are other advantages to the system. This includes that the e-tolls system is helping solve a number of crimes in South Africa.
“The system is very safe,” said Vermaak.
“It is under 24-hour surveillance and should you have an emergency, emergency personnel will assist you within 12 minutes.”
So why has there so little success in getting participation from the public?
Vermaak believes, despite Sanral’s efforts to communicate with the public, a feeling of not being respected and considered in the initial process was the problem.
“This perception was not adequately addressed in recent years,” said Vermaak.
He added that if motorists want roads of this quality, then they would ultimately have to help fund them. This is known as the “user pays principle”.
“The government commitment to provide roads does not extend to the type of road infrastructure required by an economic powerhouse,” said Vermaak.
“We have already seen the infrastructure plan being delayed by a decade because this is not properly appreciated.”
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