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Gauteng in talks on hybrid e-toll model

| Economic factors

The Gauteng government is in consultation with municipal and national counterparts to find a hybrid funding model for e-tolls which may include higher motor vehicle licence fees, turning off certain gantries, increasing off-peak discounts and introducing time-of-day exemptions.

After four months of consultation, a panel tasked with investigating the socioeconomic effects of e-tolls presented a report with more than 50 recommendations on how road infrastructure could be "better" funded.

While the e-toll system remains in place for now, Gauteng Premier David Makhura has said he is talking to the national government and municipalities about an alternative, "hybrid" or "mixed" funding method.

This is set to frustrate the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), which is to approach the bond market. Sanral chief financial officer Inge Mulder confirmed the agency would approach the market to raise R600m early in February.

Last month she expressed concern over the uncertainty surrounding the policy on e-tolls.

Mr Makhura has assured Gauteng motorists a proposed solution to the e-tolls problem would be announced before the end of next month. This proposal would then be released for further consultation with those affected.

The panel’s detailed findings and recommendations included the acknowledgement that the road improvements had benefited motorists in some ways, but said it was "unaffordable and inequitable and places a disproportionate burden on low-and middle-income households" in its current form.

It also found that it was "administratively cumbersome".

The panel recommended that a hybrid funding option be adopted to bankroll the current phase of the freeway improvement programme known as e-tolls.

"Consideration should be given to structuring the e-tolls component of the hybrid funding option in a way that is more equitable to low-and middle-income users, more simple and efficient, and at lower rates," the panel recommended.

In order to lower rates, the panel recommends "significantly" lowering the monthly cap, lowering or eliminating higher rates for nontagged vehicles, reducing tolls per gantry, ending toll collection at certain gantries, and introducing exemptions or rebates for low-and middle-income users.

The panel also found people did not feel there was adequate consultation, leading to the negative attitudes towards tolling. "We say every next step must be with the people of Gauteng," Mr Makhura said.

The African National Congress (ANC) in Gauteng, which rejected e-tolls in their current form at its congress last year, urged the government to act on the advice quickly. Chairman Paul Mashatile said he believed his constituency would be pleased with the report.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions expressed disappointment that the panel had not rejected e-tolls in their entirety. Outa said the panel seemed to be trying to partially keep the "irrational and inefficient system".

ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa on Thursday welcomed the report. He hoped its recommendations would be "taken into serious consideration".

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