E-tolling gantry in Gauteng. File Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/SIMON MATHEUBLA
E-tolling gantry in Gauteng. File Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/SIMON MATHEUBLA

The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is looking at alternatives to e-tolls for billions of rand in needed road construction.

Sanral expected legal processes against motorists who did not pay e-tolls bills to start soon, with compliance ranging from 30% to 40%, Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project manager Alex van Niekerk said on Thursday.

Motorists owe Sanral more than R6bn in unpaid tolls.

Sanral is gearing up to go to court, seeking default judgments against hundreds of thousands of motorists refusing to pay.

But even if it succeeds, it said using tolling to fund future construction was inadequate. With the constraints on the fiscus, it could stifle the clearing of SA’s road infrastructure backlog, Van Niekerk said at a transport seminar at the University of Johannesburg.

Even if SA were to find a political or legal solution to its ongoing battle over the introduction of tolling, it may not be the best way of financing road infrastructure, Prof David Hensher, director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney, said at the forum. SA should consider alternatives, he said. Despite total compliance by motorists in the extensively tolled Sydney network, revenue in the first year of operation was 30%-50% less than projected.

Accumulated cost was a factor for motorists, but calculations could put too much weight on the relationship between cost and time saved, he said.

Attaching a price at point of use was still critical to ensuring management of demand and Australians were considering distance-based tolling instead, Hensher said.

This would use GPS technology to charge motorists per kilometre driven, with higher tariffs during peak periods.

It could price road use like electricity or water tariffs and it was technologically feasible, Hensher said.

Van Niekerk said Sanral was still in favour of e-tolling, which allowed proceeds to be fully ring-fenced.

"We are also looking at various other models. Distance-based tolling would be difficult, but it is the most fair manner," Van Niekerk said.

"The chances of building huge freeways and infrastructure through the fiscus is limited," said Van Niekerk.

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