The compliance rate on Gauteng’s urban toll network is between 30% and 40%, says South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) northern region toll and traffic manager Alex van Niekerk.
E-toll collection on Gauteng’s freeways has been problematic since the implementation of tolling in 2013.
Around 900 000 vehicles travel on the Gauteng urban toll network each day, recording 2.5-million transactions, says Van Niekerk.
“What is quite important now is that the legal processes are kicking in,” he notes.
“For me the issue about the project is that people think it is about tolling – it is not. It is about the construction of roads. The people who think they are winning by not paying are exactly the same people who, in five years’ time, are going to say, but where are the new freeways?”
He adds that Sanral is an implementation agency, executing government policy.
He says Sanral hopes to “one day find a champion to take this [urban tolling] forward. There was a lot of political will back in the 1990s with the first Transport Minister Mac Maharaj, and that is the kind of champion we require now. It is unfortunate that you do need champions”.
Other Payment Methods
Sanral is investigating road funding models other than e-tolling, says Van Niekerk.
One of these methods is distance-based charging, considered to be “the most fair”, as the user pays per kilometre travelled, almost like paying for the quantity of electricity or water used, he explains.
“We looked at this, but it is very expensive. To fit all the vehicles in South Africa with an onboard GPS unit would have cost billions of rands.”
University of Sydney Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies founder and director Professor David Hensher suggests that peak-period distance-based charging could, globally speaking, be deemed a more effective payment model than tolling, for example, while also offering the appeal of significant time savings to the commuter. Technological advancements are also increasing the feasibility of implementing such methods.
According to distance-based charging, vehicle owners pay for the kilometres travelled on any road (not only freeways), with higher charges levied during peak time.
This model could be implemented in lieu of toll roads.
The idea is for the commuter and Treasury not to be worse off compared with other payment models, such as tolling and/or congestion charging, as well as fuel levies and vehicle registration fees, explains Hensher.
More appealing payment models would be the only way for politicians to provide their support to such schemes, he adds.
“In my view there are very few champions and too many managers. Roads are not so much about economics and engineering, but more about politics and marketing.”