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Oct 05, 2012

E-toll meeting to resume next week

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Pretoria|Africa|Eskom|PROJECT|Road|Roads|Africa|South Africa|E-tags|E-toll|E-tolling|E-tolls|Services|Transport|Ari Seiris|Cliff Johnston|Gary Ronald|Howard Dembovsky|Infrastructure|Kgalema Motlanthe|Michael Tatalias|Sidumo Dlamini|Thabo Masebe|Wayne Duvenage
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A meeting between the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on e-tolling and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, will again convene next week.

"The meeting [on Friday] agreed that more time was needed for both parties to consider the proposals on the table," Motlanthe's spokesperson Thabo Masebe said in a statement.

Motlanthe and Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini led the government and labour delegations respectively at the meeting at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

This followed a July 20 consultation.

The IMC had been expected to announce its plans on Friday for implementing e-tolling in Gauteng.

However, Masebe said this would be delayed because the IMC needed time to discuss the issues raised.

Cosatu has mounted a strong campaign against e-tolling, maintaining it is the wrong way to raise money to maintain the country's major roads.

Government's plans to introduce e-tolling in Gauteng have provoked opposition by motorists and residents of South Africa's economic heartland.

Earlier, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said it was clear government intended to launch e-tolling in Gauteng before a court review took place.

This was judging from the comments made by the transport minister urging the public to buy e-tags this week, it said in a statement.

Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage said: "Since having access to the ETC [electronic toll collection] contract... our expert transport economist's assessment of the numbers and efficiency of e-tolls has revealed that the plan suffers from oversights and is a most inefficient manner in which to fund the R17-billion freeway upgrade."

Outa was expecting the IMC to announce it was reducing the e-toll tariff and the capped maximum charge.

"They [will] go on the charm offensive to woo the public into believing this is the best option. We also believe their announcement will include the acceptance of e-tolling by a few entities that were originally opposed to the plan," said Duvenage.

Outa rejected e-tolling under the "user-pays" principle.

"The reality, however, is that you can't be 'half-pregnant' on e-tolls. You either e-toll or you don't."

Cliff Johnston of the South African National Consumer Union said the collection costs and the burden placed on society were independent from the amount charged per kilometre.

"Indeed, as the toll rate per kilometre falls, the collection costs become an increasingly larger percentage of the amount collected. This is the ultimate tragedy of the plan," he said.

Road users would still have to foot the bill of more than R1.1-billion a year just to cover the electronic toll collection process.

Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald said it was worrying that the ETC contracts remained confidential. They should be made public for the citizens who would be paying the toll fees.

Michael Tatalias, CEO of the South African Tourism Services Association, said forcing e-tolling on citizens was a gross injustice.

Ari Seiris, CEO of the QuadPara Association of South Africa, said it was concerning that its members were not consulted during the e-toll planning.

"While a solution is currently being sought for people with disabilities, the last proposed tariff structure and policy makes no accommodation for those without transport but who rely on the generosity of many private individuals to transport them around Gauteng, often using the network of highways," said Seiris.

The Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) said it supported Outa.

"JPSA... remains vehemently opposed to this ludicrously costly and inefficient way of collecting funding and paying for infrastructure in our country, effectively privatising public roads and enriching Austrian-based Kapsch TrafficCom," chairperson Howard Dembovsky said in a statement.

There was a risk that the e-toll fees could escalate out of control as had happened with other state-owned enterprises, such as Eskom, he said.

Edited by: Sapa
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