A governmental task team will produce a report on the future of electronic tolling (e-tolling) in Gauteng by August.
Speaking at a media conference at the Southern African Transport Conference in Pretoria, on Monday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said this report will be presented to President Cyril Ramaphosa next month.
“The president established a task team, led by the Minister of Transport, which must report to him on the options on the table with regards to e-toll.
“[The report] will be the ultimate product, informed by a process of engagement and negotiations.
“We are hard at work. We’ll have a team of experts working under Ministers and we’ll look at various solutions and then report to the stakeholders. There will be no holy cows. We’ll come up with a solution to this matter. Ourselves and [National] Treasury are working on this.”
Mbalula said the task team faced “robust views” from National Treasury on the debt owed on the Gauteng Freeway Expansion Project and how society’s failure to pay e-tolls had affected government’s – and specifically, the South African National Roads Agency’s – borrowing ability.
There was also, however, "the overwhelming demand from society to not pay e-tolls."
“There is a demand that we must cut e-tolls and that is, in the main, the issue we are looking at. The demand on the table is like a gun facing you.”
“There is polarisation,” he added. “Society is not prepared to listen, the Gauteng government says no more e-tolls . . . but yes, if no more, where do we get the money to service the debt? It’s not going away. Those are the realities.”
Other challenges facing Gauteng include increasing congestion and rapid urbanisation, all placing additional strain on the province’s road network.
PRASA A PRIORITY
While Mbalula is aware of a proposed project to expand the Gautrain network in Gauteng, his focus is on fixing Metrorail.
Metrorail is operated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).
“I have a lot of dreams, including the expansion of the Gautrain. But, what is important to me, is how we respond to the question of passenger rail,” said Mbalula.
“It is important to modernise, yes, and we’ll do all the feasibility studies, but what I want to address immediately is that passenger rail must be fixed in all urban areas.
“I want to tick all the boxes: signalling, arriving on time.”
Mbalula said he also wanted to focus on governance issues within PRASA – “steadfast and focused, just like dealing with Eskom”.
He said he would roll out a plan on “fixing passenger rail in the coming weeks”.