Transport Laws Bill enabling e-tolling tabled in Parliament

Public hearings to be scheduled

The minister of transport has now tabled the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill in Parliament, the department of transport department having gazetted a notice announcing such intention in early August this year and obtaining cabinet approval for the Bill that month.

The Bill provides the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) with the necessary legal structures to enforce e-tolling, SANRAL having the responsibilities of planning, design, construction and maintenance of roads in South Africa.

However, it became quite clear during the furore that surrounded the announcement of the development of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) that SANRAL had neither the competence or legal structure in place for e-tolling in place and that the development was “out of sync” with the necessary legal requirements for both the implementation of e-tolling and its enforcement of a user-pay system.

All of this followed the setting aside of an interim order that halted the GFIP and implementation of e-tolling by the Constitutional Court in September 2012.

The Transport Laws Bill specifically allows for SANRAL to operate a road network that makes use of “intelligent transport systems” therefore giving SANRAL authority to exercise e-tolling; in effect a response to the constitutional decision.

The Bill will also provide more enforcement powers to ensure that motorists pay e-tolls and since SANRAL is responsible for any strategic planning for South Africa’s roads, such which allow the process on a national basis.

In their recent annual report, the department of transport shows that only 5% of South African roads involve tolling but as minister Ben Martins explained to Parliament, this is a critical area of South Africa’s economic pulse and this particular portion of South Africa’s road network is mainly responsible for South Africa’s economic future.

The bill was previously published for comment in March 2010. The memorandum contained in the Bill clearly states that such legal background is necessary for any future road infrastructure development and states unambiguously that the funding of the GFIP is to come from the e-tolls raised from motorists.

On the issue of future funding, the memorandum departs from usual legal parlance and states. “The non-collection of tolls may impact negatively on the ability of the other State-Owned- Enterprises to raise capital for their infrastructure programmes and thus the need for the Bill must also be seen in the context of Government’s plans to fund its envisaged infrastructure programme”.

An inter-ministerial committee and COSATU, the latter objecting to the Bill, have met to discuss their differences.

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