Unloved and unfair, but here to stay: that’s the message from the official report commissioned by Gauteng Premier David Makhura in 2014 into the controversial etoll system, currently used to finance the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
“The establishment of the panel was as a direct result of the public outcry around etolls,” Makhura said at the public announcement of the reports findings this afternoon, which outlines almost 60 recommendations. He added that oversight for the etoll project would be passed onto the office of the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who would review the report’s findings before deciding what to implement.
The first two recommendations, however, make it clear that scrapping etolls is unlikely, and that the system will remain part of the mix for financing Gauteng’s roads.
“A hybrid funding option should be adopted,” the report says, “in which GFIP is funded through a combination of etolls and other funding sources.”
The report goes on to say, however, that “the etolls component of a hybrid funding option should be structured in a way that is more equitable to low- and middle-income users, more simple and efficient and at lower rates”.
Makhura began by outlining the benefits that GFIP had brought to the province, and said that there was a “’general acceptance’ of the user pays principle.
“The implementation of the improvement project has indeed benefitted the economy and the people of the province in many ways,” he said, “[through] Improved fuel efficiency, decreased maintenance cost and improved travel time.
“It cannot be disputed that travelling in Gauteng now is better than before.”
He acknowledged, however, that etolls had been unpopular and that the costs weren’t fairly distributed.
“In its current form the etoll system places a burden on low and middle-income households,” Makhura said, “Elements of the current system must be reviewed around fairness, sustainability, affordability and administrative ability.”
Makhura warned, however, that the road improvement project itself was under pressure from increased traffic, and that the three Gauteng metropolitan areas would investigate current investments and future costings.
“The key issue is not improving roads,” Makhura said, “Not ‘user pays’… rather finding an equitable, sustainable hybrid funding model.”
Other recommendations in the report include issuing etags with all motor vehicle licences, to ensure that all road users have an etag. The report also says that a Gauteng fuel levy should be investigated as part of a hybrid mix of funding solutions for the future that could also include an increased tax on tyres and government increasing and ring fencing roadside advertising along the toll route.