E-tolling finally makes it through Parliament…
Discontent was expressed once again regarding the Transport and Related Matters Bill regarding e-tolling when opposition members complained that the Bill had been classified as Section 75 for national competence only, therefore denying the National Council of Provinces the process under section 76 of the Constitution whereby the Bill and its contents could be debated and approved at provincial level.
Johannes Makgatho, department of transport, told parliamentarians of the select committee on transport, NCOP, that when the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) Act was promulgated, electronic toll collection (ETC) was not envisaged in its current form. The development of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) had necessitated ETC and the Bill was necessary.
Sanral goes big on bonds
The Bill was described by DoT as being of vital importance for the collection of tolls, the lack of which would have a negative impact on the ability of government to raise capital for their infrastructure projects. SANRAL had issued bonds to the tune of R24bn and the inability to collect tolls to repay the bonds would imperil the state guarantee provided to SANRAL, Makgatho said.
Ms Suraya Williams, Principal Law Advisor from the Office of the State Law Advisors, told the committee that that the regular ‘substantial measure’ test was applied to the question of whether the Bill should be tagged under section 76 for provincial debate but according to this established constitutional process, the Bill had been found to be a Section 75 Bill.
Who has heard of Cross Border Agency?
The Democratic Alliance said that it did not object to e-tolling in principle but considered there was a lack of public participation on the project and the process of e-tolling as a whole and this was unacceptable. Also all funds were to be collected by a body known as the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency, which they said was a relatively unknown entity and were deeply concerned that this body was competent.
The DA added that this state entity had already been found unable to handle its own finances and got into difficulties handling just cross-border taxi industry matters. Mr Alex van Niekerk, Manager of the Gauteng Freeway Project for SANRAL, said the Cross-Border Agency had indeed experienced much difficulty initially with vehicles entering the country and travelling on roads which had not been tolled, but they had now built up experience with e-tolling and were ready for GFIP and national e-tolling as it built up.
Mr van Niekerk explained that e-tolling would replace conventional toll plazas and that tolls would be recorded electronically in reference to barcodes which recorded the type and status of the vehicle in the same manner as prepaid airtime on cell phones. Existing toll plazas would remain but rather than manual payments, the plaza would read the tag and give access if there was credit on the account.
He said the principle of tolling did not change at all, only the mechanism of tolling changed and “non-compliance at the time of travel could therefore be remedied after the fact.” No profit, he added, would be made by SANRAL in the collection of toll revenue and he added that technology for the GFIP was considered “cutting edge”.
The Bill has now achieved NCOP concurrence and has gone forward for final reading. It then goes to President Zuma for assent.
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