Paying attention?

Paying attention?

Following the news of problems experienced by e-tolling on Portugal’s SCUT (Sem custo para o utilizador – without charge to the user*) Freeways – as reported on – the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) foresees similar, if not worse, problems and concerns for the South African National Roads Agency’s (Sanral’s) e-toll plans for Gauteng.

“Portugal’s e-toll problems are very similar to the type that we have envisaged for Sanral’s Gauteng e-toll plan,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s chairman. “In a country such as Portugal, where compliance and administration efficiency is much higher than in South Africa, it is evident that e-toll projects of this nature are subject to a certain level of citizen rejection.”

He adds: “Judging by Portugal’s e-toll project, which has seen a 19 percent non-payment rate by road users – you can rest assured that matters of non-compliance will be far worse here for Sanral following the outrage and general public rejection of its plans to implement e-tolls on Gauteng’s freeways.”

The Portuguese project has also been plagued with lower than anticipated revenue collections – with collection administration costs soaring to 29 percent of the revenues generated, and still increasing.

According to Antonio Ramalho, chief executive for the Empresa Pública (public company) concessionaire for Portugal’s SCUT e-toll project, in May, the vehicles travelling on SCUT motorways without an e-tag cost as much to bill as the amount they pay for using the e-tolled road. He adds: “The system is unsustainable and we hope it doesn’t stay the way it is.”

The article also raised concerns about the profitability of charging e-tolls on previously unpaid or so-called SCUT motorways. OUTA warns of similar concerns raised here in Gauteng and says that the South African authorities would do this country a favour by preventing an embarrassing situation from getting worse. “We urge them not to ignore the signs that point to a rapid failure of the Gauteng e-toll project, one which has experienced massive rejection by society,” says Duvenage.

He adds that it doesn’t take much to realise that e-tolling in Gauteng will be an absolute mess and is unsustainable. “It would be best to halt this plan before it is too late and to rather extract the revenues required to pay for the freeway upgrade by way of an efficient general tax.”

*Since 2010 some of Portugal’s motorways, most of them old SCUT roads, must be paid by e-toll systems. Before this date, Portugal’s government paid the toll rates.

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