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Wednesday Mar 28, 2012

Government shelves tolling in Cape

The government has shelved plans to toll highways in the Western Cape following massive public opposition to the imposition of electronic tolls to finance the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin told Business Report: "We see no priority in the (tolling of) the R300, N1 and N2 in Cape Town... it can't be a priority."

The ANC and Cosatu held a bilateral meeting this week in an effort to resolve their impasse over e-tolling in Gauteng, but both parties are staying mum on the talks, other than to say that they were fruitful.

Cronin acknowledged that massive opposition to the tolling plan in the Western Cape - including from the Cape Town city council and the provincial government - had persuaded the national government against tolling on the so-called Winelands Toll Road Project.

Pressed on who he was referring to as "we", he said this meant the government including the Department of Transport and the presidential infrastructure co-ordinating commission. "There is a lack of support from all spheres of government... the city and province have been the loudest... and certainly the cabinet is not persuaded," Cronin said.

The Da-controlled metropolitan council took the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and the Department of Transport to court to block the imposition of tolling in the province.

While the government would love to "wind the clock back" on e-tolling in Gauteng as well, Cronin believed this was not possible. The reality was that a R20 billion debt for the upgrade of 180km of Gauteng's 500km freeway system had to be paid, although a fiscal injection had reduced this by about a quarter.

The current model allowed for taxis and buses not to pay the toll fees but the government did recognise that there were poor people - living on R3 000 a month or less in a household - who were forced to use cars because they had no public transport options.

He acknowledged that there were many people in the "corridor townships", including Alexandra and Mamelodi, who were in this position and did not have access to adequate public transport.

Buanews reported Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and Gauteng MEC for Transport Ismail Vadi have registered their official vehicles for the e-tolling system due to start on April 30. More than 320 000 vehicles have so far been registered, according to Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli.

Patrick Craven, Cosatu's spokesman, said the trade union federation had agreed not to talk about the detail of the talks with the ANC, held on Monday, while "talks are in progress". ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu would also not comment further.

Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts said that his party, together with the National Taxpayers' Union, the SA Caravan Association and motorcyclists from various clubs would be launching a protest action against the Gauteng e-tolls tomorrow morning from 7am.

Business Report

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