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E-tolls: Motorists set to pay much less

| Economic factors

Free passes under e-toll gantries and a decrease in the monthly amount motorists with e-tags will pay. This is the early New Year’s gift awaiting Gauteng motorists.

The provincial government appears to have won a major political victory and is on the brink of clinching a deal that could see the province’s motorists paying much less for e-tolls.

But its triumph could come at a heavy cost for the province.

City Press has learnt that an e-toll consultation team headed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa – which included roads agency Sanral, the Treasury and the Gauteng government – has agreed in principle to adopting some of the recommendations of the e-tolls review panel set up by Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

The panel recommended a hybrid funding model for highway upgrades that includes higher motor vehicle licence fees; turning off certain gantries; increasing off-peak discounts; and introducing time-of-day exemptions.

Officials who attended meetings facilitated by Ramaphosa said the consensus was that some of these recommendations should be adopted.

This would help ease the burden on Gauteng motorists, it was reasoned, and get their buy-in for the hugely unpopular e-toll system.

The first option they seem to be agreeing on is a reduction in the monthly cap for motorists who have e-tags. That cap is currently set at R450. Those driving on the province’s freeways could also expect a number of free passes under the gantries.

A national government insider privy to the talks said: “The caps will be reduced – there seems to be consensus around that – and they will throw in things like a certain number of free passes under the gantries a year. Perhaps even a reduction in overall tariffs.”

But the Treasury has told Gauteng that it will have to fork out any shortfall to Sanral because of the reworked financial projections arising from the review panel’s recommendations.

The Treasury has painted five scenarios of the impact on expected revenue to Sanral as a result of any relief granted to Gauteng motorists (see graphic below).

Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe confirmed that discussions were taking place with the aim of finding the correct formula for pricing e-tolls.

“There are discussions between the provincial and national governments. The province’s team is led by the premier and the national team is led by the deputy president. We hope that they will be able to narrow down the options to one that can move us forward,” Masebe said.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said Sanral was waiting for the outcome of the process, which would give final policy clarity and direction.

“As an implementing agency of government, Sanral will implement whatever policy decision is taken on this matter,” Mona said.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, said the talks were still ongoing.

“The deputy president is leading consultations between national government and Gauteng on the outcomes of the Gauteng assessment of the economic impact [of e-tolls]. Those consultations are still under way and the outcomes will be communicated at a later stage,” he said.

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