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Article by: Sapa
Published: 24 Oct 2011
|Transport Minister orders a halt to toll road projects|
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has ordered the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) to halt all road project processes related to the tolling of national roads, his department said on Sunday.
"Good infrastructure is a necessity for a better future for our country, but this requirement must not leave our people even poorer," he said in a statement.
All spheres of government should be part of a consultative process with all affected parties, he said.
Forty two electronic toll gates have been erected on the Gauteng N1, N3, N12, N17, R21 and R24. The tolls cover a distance of about 185km.
There was outrage when it was initially proposed that users of light motor vehicles with e-tag accounts would pay R0.49/km to use the toll roads, minibus taxi drivers R0.16/km and bikers R0.30/km. Vehicles without an e-tag account would be charged R0.66/km.
The Cabinet later approved reduced toll tariffs for the Gauteng freeway improvement project.
It agreed that light motor vehicles would pay R0.40/km, medium vehicles R1/km, "longer" vehicles R2/km and bikers R0.24/km. Qualifying commuter taxis and buses would be exempted entirely.
There would be a 31% e-tag discount, a time of day discount available, and a frequent user discount for motorbikes and light motor vehicles fitted with an e-tag.
However, amid continuing unhappiness, the transport department announced earlier this month that a task team had been formed to look into the issue of toll roads and would include, among others, Ndebele and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Ndebele said on Sunday that all processes, including a consultative process initiated by the Gauteng provincial legislature, should be allowed to reach their logical conclusions to ensure that all parties concerned and their respective views were brought on board.
He said that while the first phase of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project had delivered good road infrastructure, it was an expensive exercise that had drawn sharp views from the public.
The Democratic Alliance recently launched a resistance campaign through social networking sites. The party was also planning protest marches.
Howard Dembovsky national chairperson of the Justice Project South Africa said the minister's announcement on Sunday was little short of "insanity".
"The N12/N3 freeways in Johannesburg are in such a shocking, demolished state of dilapidation that they constantly cause crashes and daily gridlock traffic and calling a halt to their reinstatement as useable freeways is little short of insanity on the part of the Minister," he said.
Dembovsky said there was a vast difference between halting planned tolling and halting construction of roads "demolished by Sanral."
He said the minister was "blackmailing motorists by leaving current road construction projects unfinished," and leaving them at the mercy of "treacherous" roads.
"Don't try and make the public think that you are sympathetic to their plight of lack of affordability Mr Minister when it was you who previously said 'if you don't like it, catch a taxi'."
He said dilapidated and finished roads should be reinstated to a condition that "can be defined as freeways."
Meanwhile City of Cape Town welcomed Ndebele's announcement.
"It appears from the statement issued by the National Minister of Transport that he shares our concerns with regards to the socio-economic impacts and that he is seeking to address one of our procedural concerns - lack of proper consultation with the City and the public," councillor Brett Herron said.
The City had in July, declared a dispute with Sanral, taking them to the High Court to interdict the project from going ahead.
The application argued that the declaration of the N1 and N2 as toll routes was a flawed and illegal process, the imposition of which would amount to unfair discrimination against largely poor and black communities.