ONE of the arguments used by Sanral in its justification of toll roads is the "user pays" principle. In other words, because the people in Gauteng are using the toll roads in that area, only they should pay.
However, without some additional statistical justification, this argument has little credibility.
Thus the Sanral Act specifies that it must take charge of the development, maintenance and rehabilitation of national roads. To do this, Sanral is funded, among others, by a petrol levy, that is paid by the taxpayers.
Sanral's obligations extend throughout South Africa and it means there are many roads in distant places that fall under its jurisdiction, roads that the majority of South Africans will never see or use. Yet the "user pays" principle is not applied to all these roads.
To have an equitable spread of the funds it gets from the fiscus, Sanral has presumably worked out how to apportion the money to different areas and roads. This would be in terms of national priorities, but as well in terms of usage.
On this basis, if a road in Johannesburg has 1000 users per hour per kilometre and equivalently a road in the Northern Cape has one user per hour per kilometre, then for every R1 spent on the Northern Cape road, R1000 should be spent on the Johannesburg road. Of course, axle weight to cater for trucks should also be considered.
Have these statistics been released for the proposed e-tolling roads and if not, why not? With the large volume of road users in Gauteng, it is very probable that spending billions on new roads is entirely justified – without recourse to e-tolling.
Moreover, it has been shown that the new roads could be paid for by an increase of 11c per litre in the fuel price – a small increase considering all the other recent increases. The question then is: why are Sanral and the government so anxious to implement e-tolling, or indeed any toll roads?
Eckart Schumann, Humewood, Port Elizabeth