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Tuesday Apr 17, 2012

New 'abhorrent' Joburg tolls exposed

Motorists who drive through toll gantries without registering with the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) will be charged punitive rates nearly six times higher than discounted rates - unless they pay their tolls within seven days.

On Friday, the Department of Transport issued the revised toll tariffs for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), which is run by Sanral.

This replaces the controversial tariffs gazetted in February last year.

The revised tariffs appear to be aimed at pushing reluctant motorists to register with Sanral as the province tolls its road users, after months of outrage by motorists over toll costs.

DA Gauteng MPL Neil Campbell said he was alarmed at the "underhanded manner" in which the punitive tariffs were introduced for unregistered users, now defined as "alternate users".

"This alternate user would be someone not registered with Sanral and either wilfully or inadvertently" used a GFIP toll road, said Campbell.

He said Sanral had never before mentioned this punitive tariff. "The absolute arrogance and lack of transparent processes shown by Sanral to the public throughout the whole toll introduction is abhorrent."

Sanral said yesterday that alternate users would be entitled to pay the standard tariff, if they paid within the seven-day grace period, and called the DA'S comments an attempt to sabotage the GFIP.

"Users who do not register, or who do not have valid and operational e-tags and who do not pay within seven days, will indeed ultimately pay a significantly higher tariff," it said.

"This alternate user tariff is determined at three times the standard tariff. The reason for this is the added costs associated with contacting the users by means of invoicing, debt collection and costs associated with recovering payment."

While Sanral said the punitive charge was three times higher than the standard tariff, the gazetted tariffs indicate that it is up to six times higher than the discounted tariff. For example, the cheapest tariff for Barbet tollgate is R1.80, but the punitive tariff is R10.44.

Although the gazette listing the tolls for each of the 49 GFIP toll points was issued on Friday, it's not available on government or Sanral websites.

The rates depend on the type of road user, the class of vehicle, and certain discounts. The cheapest deals are for those who register with Sanral and get an e-tag.

There are four classes of vehicle listed: A1 is motorcycles, A2 is light motor vehicles, B is small heavy motor vehicles (more than 6m long including trailers), and C is large heavy motor vehicles (more than 12.5m long or 1.3m wide).

There are three types of discount: time-of-day, frequentuser, and graceperiod discounts for alternate users.

Time-of-day discounts are available to all types of user, except day-pass users, but the tolls must be paid within the seven-day grace period to qualify.

These discounts "are in addition to any other discount that may apply", says the gazette.

Frequent-user discounts apply to each vehicle separately and are capped at a maximum monthly charge of R550, but "only after user reaches R400 in e-toll transactions". This 15 percent discount "does not apply to every e-toll transaction in a calendar month", but only comes into effect on transactions after the R400 threshold is reached.

"The R400 includes any time-ofday and any other applicable discounts. No frequent user discounts apply to e-toll transactions under the R400 threshold."

The R400 threshold and R550 maximum will go up each year by the consumer price index.

The grace-period discounts are set to encourage alternate users to turn themselves into registered users within seven days of running up toll bills.

Those alternate users who, within seven days of using the roads, become registered e-tag users or registered VLN users, may claim those discounts.

The full list is on The Star's website. Friday's gazette defines five types of GFIP toll road user:

Registered e-tag users: They have registered with Sanral and set up an e-toll account, have an e-tag, have enough funds in their e-toll accounts to pay the tolls, have linked their e-toll accounts to "a payment method acceptable" to Sanral, and have an agreement with Sanral to pay. These users get the cheapest toll deal.

Non-registered e-tag users: They have got an e-tag from Sanral or an authorised supplier but are not registered with Sanral. Their e-tags initially have some credit available for e-toll transactions and, as they are not registered with Sanral, their vehicles are identified when going under the toll gantries by their vehicle licence number.

Vehicle licence number (VLN) users: They are registered with Sanral as VLN users and have set up e-toll accounts, but are not registered as e-tag users. Their vehicles are identified by their vehicle registration plates when going under toll gantries. Their e-toll accounts must have enough credit in them to cover toll transactions, and have a Sanral-approved payment agreement.

Alternate users: These are users who do not fall into any of the other categories. They include non-registered e-tag users who don't have credit on their e-tags. Alternate users are identified when going under the toll gantries by vehicle licence numbers or e-tags. These users pay the highest toll rates.

Day-pass users: These users buy 24-hour passes, which can be used for any number of transactions during the 24 hours starting with the first passage under a gantry. These passes must be bought before using the tolls, and users may only buy 12 a year. Day-pass users are identified by vehicle licence numbers.

The Star

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