Claims that roads agency Sanral has been ready to implement e-tolls for the past two years are false, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said on Thursday. Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said Sanral had instead failed itself.
“If Sanral were so efficient and their funding predicament was so serious, why are we still seeing a flurry of legislative amendments taking place over the past year?” he said. “The regulatory environment forms part of the framework for readiness.”
Duvenage said during proceedings at the constitutional court last August that Sanral said it could start e-tolling within two weeks of the interdict halting the project being set aside. “Almost a year has passed, and they are still beating about the bush,” he said.
The Democratic Alliance said tolling had not yet started because of government’s re-election fears. “The fact that the tolls have not been implemented indicates the real fear the government has that implementation prior to next year’s elections will do irreparable harm to their re-election hopes,” DA MPL Neil Campbell said.
On Wednesday, Sanral’s toll and traffic manager Alex van Niekerk said the company was approaching several banks in the hope of raising R1,5bn. The bulk of the amount needed was to service debt on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
“We are reaching the stage, in the next three months, when it will become critical,” he said.
E-tolling to fund the project had not yet started, but the monthly cost of the necessary infrastructure amounted to about R25m.
Sanral’s business comprised two portfolios: the non-toll portfolio which accounted for 84%, and which was financially healthy. The remaining 16% was the toll portfolio component, which included the GFIP.
Sanral was not facing bankruptcy, because only the smaller portfolio had cash flow problems. This had not yet affected Sanral’s capacity to maintain other existing toll roads, Van Niekerk said.
He could not say when e-tolling was likely to become a reality.
Earlier, it was reported that the agency had run out of money, with debt totalling R65bn, including interest. The agency reportedly borrowed R20bn from local and foreign investors to fund the GFIP.
Plans to introduce e-tolling on these freeways had encountered resistance from various sectors of society. — Sapa