THE Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) Steering Committee has announced recommendations to reduce toll tariffs in the province following extensive consultations. Suggested tariffs will be as low as 40c per km for light vehicles and 11c per km for commuter taxis if they have an e-tag (an electronic tolling devise that fits on the front windscreen of a vehicle), according to the recommendations made by the committee.
Speaking at the final stakeholder consultation meeting on toll tariffs in Midrand, Transport Director-General and Chairperson of the Steering Committee, George Mahlalela, has re-iterated that no final decision has been made on the tariffs. He stressed that the committee's recommendations will next be submitted to the Ministers of Transport and Finance, as well as the Premier of Gauteng for their review and final pronouncement. The process will then be steered by Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele through national cabinet, with the same process followed in the Gauteng cabinet. The outcome of the decision will be announced by the Minister Ndebele in due course.
"We have listened to and taken on board what stakeholders said, and now are in a position to make our recommendations," Mr Mahlalela told members of the media. "The steering committee investigated the proposals made by all stakeholders, as well as all other options to revise the toll tariffs and make it more affordable."
The purpose of the stakeholder meeting today was to provide feedback to the stakeholders regarding the issues they raised, Mr Mahlalela said. "It was made clear right at the outset that the principle of tolling has been accepted, and that the matter under review was the proposed tariff of 66c/km, initially suggested as the charge for a vehicle without an e-tag account," he said.
The steering committee's recommended toll tariffs that will be forwarded to the Minister and Premier include a decrease from 30c per km down to 24c/km for motorcycles (ClassA1) and 49,5c/km to 40c/km for light vehicles (Class A2).
For medium vehicles (Class B), the proposed toll tariff fee is down to R1/km from R1,49/km, large vehicles (Class C), from R2,97/km to R2/km, taxis will be 11c/km from 16,5c/km, while commuter busses (Class B), will come down to 36,3c/km from 50c/km. These rates are all based on a vehicle having an e-tag account and an e-tag on its windscreen.
These recommended reduced tariffs are possible due to the reallocation of costs, restructuring of debt, as well as the restructuring of the discount regime and revising the ratios of light to medium to heavy vehicles.
Mr Mahlalela reminded journalists that the GFIP is not funded through the central fiscus. Funds are raised on the Capital Markets through the South African National Roads Agency Limited's (SANRAL's) Domestic Medium Term Note Programme. "The user-pay principle (tolling) is used to re-pay the loans, as well as for future operation and maintenance of these roads."
Toll tariffs were originally announced in February this year. Following public concerns about the impact of toll tariffs, the Minister of Transport suspended the toll tariffs and appointed a steering committee to engage with stakeholders, and to determine options to reduce the toll tariffs.
Between 24 March and 6 April several engagements were held with stakeholders, to afford them the opportunity to make presentations. The public was also invited to make submissions.
Another critical part of the Steering Committee's report addresses the fact that the Department has also identified public transport for greater investment in terms of the provincial and national fiscus. Programmes have already been identified for consideration.
"The Department recognises rail as a primary mass mover and will be increasing its investment in this particular area, specifically with regard to upgrading Metrorail in terms of rolling stock and signaling," Mr Mahlalela said. "Furthermore, the Department recognises the critical importance of investment in the Bus Rapid Transit System and the need for integration with the taxi industry."