Shock announcement: RFA supports tolls
No we are not kidding. The Road Freight Association (RFA) has now confirmed that the e-tolling system has the support of the association!
However, the aforementioned does not come without conditions; the RFA has re-iterated that its support is purely based on the current cost and introduction of an independent regulator. The organisation welcomed the reduction of the e-toll tariffs as most of us did.
“We may choose not to support any future e-toll expansion,” says spokesperson for the RFA, Gavin Kelly. “We still maintain that the administration cost in respect of collection and our internal administration could have been avoided if fuel levies were utilised and earmarked to fund the upgrades of freeways,” he says.
From the outset of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), the RFA has stated that the road freight industry is willing to pay for good road infrastructure, maintenance, route improvement and development. However, following the first publication of the proposed tariffs and operational details in November 2010, the RFA began to voice strong opposition, as the tariffs were seen to be extraordinarily high when compared to other toll routes in the country.
The RFA took the form of a public media campaign and government lobbying programme – supported by an economic impact assessment study on the proposed tariffs.
“The RFA will continue to lobby for increased discounts and reduced tariffs for road freight operators,” says Kelly. “The e-tolls are still a significant cost to operators who will have no other option but to use the toll network as there are no alternate routes available. The industry is continually faced with escalating costs and is struggling to recover the losses of the recent strike.”
Some key outcomes of the RFA’s e-toll lobbying efforts have included the reduction of tariffs for class B and C vehicles by 51 percent, a 31 percent e-tag discount off the base tariff and the introduction of capped amounts, which will allow operators to budget accordingly.
A minimum period for comment on published Government Gazettes was set at 30 days and for freight, the time of day discount has been increased and the time has been extended. The organisation has also lobbied for an independent regulator, which is now in the process of being set up.
Despite its recent jump to the other side of the fence, the RFA remains strongly opposed to the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA). Kelly explains how this comes after the recent qualified audit the agency received due to it not being able to assess the completeness of penalties and other revenue. An additional number of allegations and investigations of fraud and other irregularities at the C-BRTA are also underway.
“The RFA is also concerned that the proposal to allow the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to operate outside of the National Credit Act may create further complications when measures are instituted to recoup or collect owed tolls – or any outstanding financial obligations,” says Kelly.
“We have also clearly stated that our support for the GFIP does not equate to a blanket approval of any other toll project,” continues Kelly. “Any new project would require open and honest access to any other proposed toll project so that the impact on operators and the economy alike can be fully ascertained well in advance.”
The RFA has been acknowledged as a key stakeholder and will be closely consulted in all future road infrastructure programmes. The public may be unable to fight the system but hopefully this means that we will have someone on our side to fight battles of justice when it comes to the structuring of the e-tolling system.