The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is set to implement its open-road tolling system in April next year, and the cost structure has come under the spotlight -- how exactly hidden costs will be passed on to the consumer.
The routes that will be affected are the N1 from Pretoria, the R24 to the R21 to Pretoria and Johannesburg's ring roads on the Randburg and Alberton routes. There will be 185km of toll infrastructure in total.
Nazir Alli, the CEO of Sanral, says that high traffic volumes (between 100 000 and 200 000 vehicles a day) make a conventional toll impractical, so the best way to monitor and control payment is by means of electronic toll technology. This will be the biggest implementation of its kind in the world.
As far as we know, Sanral's base rate per kilometre for light vehicles, with or without a trailer, will be 50c per kilometre before discounts. This still has to be ratified by the minister of transport, and the figure of 65c per kilometre has been bandied about, but the final figure has not been arrived at just yet.
According to Tony Twine of Econometrix, this "50c per kilometre" is such a vague base figure as to be almost meaningless. How has this figure been arrived at and how will proposed discounts for more frequent road users be calculated?
Theoretically, if you travel 500km a month and you don't qualify for a discount, you will pay R250 a month for the privilege of using the national road.
According to Gary Ronald, head of public affairs at the Automobile Association (AA), the average, office-bound motorist simply doesn't have the disposable income to afford this every month. Many road users will try to find alternative routes to avoid the tolls, and Ronald believes that, because the existing road infrastructure is already past capacity, this will not help -- either in terms of time management, or impact on the environment.
For example, people living in the Fourways area who would normally take the highway into the Jo'burg CBD could now start commuting along William Nicol, which already turns into a parking lot at peak times.
Remember, too, that company car benefits are changing from next year, so we're already looking at reduced company car benefits for motorists. These tolls will only add more financial pressure.
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