SANRAL considering its options
The South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) is considering hybrid funding models for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
This is according to Alex van Niekerk, SANRAL northern region toll and traffic manager, who says the agency is busy establishing how alternative models would impact vehicle licensing fees, as well as tolling charges.
He believes subsidising e-tolls through vehicle license fees would increase the fees 25%, even if e-toll compliance rose to 90%.
Van Niekerk explained that the ideal funding mechanism was a closed system in which road users paid for the total distance they travelled on the country’s road network, and not just for the use of toll roads.
But, such a revolutionary funding model would rely on several technologies, including that GPS tracking units be fitted to every vehicle in the country.
He said SANRAL advocates the user-pays funding model because the money generated from toll roads did not go to the national fiscus, and are ring-fenced for toll roads specifically.
Van Niekerk all but dismissed the fuel levy as a toll funding solution. “Roads authorities don’t have direct control of where that money goes; the fiscus spends money where it is needed most.”
In many instances, this spending is politically driven. “Many things happen in communities where votes are required,” he said.
Van Niekerk claims the GFIP has the most affordable tariffs for open tolling anywhere in the world. “Eighty percent of users pay less than R100 per month and e-tolling is capped at R250 per month,” he stated.
He is of the view open road tolling promotes travel demand principles, ride sharing and public transport use, while catering for time-of-day discounts.
“It improves incident prediction and management and assists the South African Police Services with their investigations,” he added.
Several challenges faced the agency, including crippling road maintenance and expansion backlogs.
He cautioned that, by 2030, approximately 16 million vehicles would be using South Africa’s roads, with around 6.6 million of those roaming Gauteng tarmac.
“Without tolling, South Africa’s growth potential and its ability to create jobs will be compromised.
“If we don’t have a sustainable revenue stream and way to finance roads, then the country cannot plan road projects for the future.”
He added that the chances of building huge freeways or commencing large-scale road upgrade projects would be “limited”, due to ongoing budgetary constraints.
“Roads the world over do not receive sufficient monetary allocations,” he said.
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