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26 February 2012 at 23:46 - Posted by Anonymous

State ready to rumble over e-tolling


The government plans to plug all the loopholes in the current legislation that allow Gauteng toll road users without e-tags to avoid paying toll fees.

Following the announcement that Gauteng’s controversial e-tolls will begin, like it or not, at the end of April, Transport director-general George Mahlalela said government would defend itself as motoring lobbies threaten legal action.

He said government was confident that that the final legislative amendments would be in place by April 30.

This included providing the framework for offences to be handled as administrative civil process rather than a criminal one.

Mahlalela added that the minister of transport had “suspended this thing (tolling) twice now because people had said they were not consulted”.

“If we were dictators we would have implemented the tolling in February last year already,” he said. “We did everything we could to reduce the impact of the tolls on the road users. I don’t think we could have had consensus across the board, whether it’s R50 or R300 that had to be paid, the reality is it is still someone’s disposable income.”

When quizzed on what government had done since the first postponement of e-tolls to provide an alternative, Mahlalela said there had been short-term interventions such as making sure that trains were clean, efficient and on time.

“We also looked at integration of taxis and buses as remedial actions in the short term to improve existing system,” he explained. “What we have been doing is to get all stakeholders together and we established an integration committee under the Gautrain. We are saying there have been (more) improvements in public transport in Gauteng compared to any other place in the country.”

But independent transport consultant Paul Browning questioned on Friday what had come out of the integration of buses and taxis.

“This response does not appear to show the government is genuinely committed to providing alternatives for Gauteng road users,” he said. “I fully understand the impracticality of making large scale improvements in public transport in a matter of a year or two, but many of us would like to see evidence of a greater degree of urgency on the part of the government.”

Mahlalela said improved roads had huge benefits to Gauteng motorists, because instead of the two-hour travel it would take them 30 minutes. He added that other advantages of improved roads were less fuel usage and less congestion.

“What we are saying to the people of Gauteng is that what you lose on the tariffs you pay, you gain back on the other side. In real terms you are not losing much on this toll roads,” he said.

“We are concerned about the kind of scary figures that have been thrown around to raise alarm on the tolling. While these are genuine concerns that South Africans have, we believe the reality will be different once the tolls begin.”

He said the government had no choice but to resort to the user-pay principled. - Saturday Star

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