A notice published in the government Gazettes this week reveals that new toll fees higher than current charges will be introduced next month.
As Easter break and the Human Rights Day are around the corner, the roads agency plans to increase the toll fees for both national routes and the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. The notices show only the new fees, not the percentage of increase.
However, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has clarified that the increase is between 2-8 percent and should not be categorically referred to as increase. “This is not an increase, it’s an adjustment,” Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said on Wednesday morning.
According to Sanral’s spokesperson, Sanral’s principle was to match the increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures changes in the price level of a basket of goods and services bought by households. “We look at CPI for the previous 12 months and adjust according to that. We don’t adjust more than CPI,” he said.
Though Mona dismissed the public idea that the increase made targeting the coming holidays in March, he said the increase was made at the usual time of the year Sanreal has been making its increase and that this was the first time increase is made in the Gauteng e-tolls since they were launched in 2013. “If you don’t do that, then the value of what you are collecting diminishes,” said Mona.
As expected, the proposed increase by the Sanreal has been critically opposed by OUTA who said the traditional annual increase of toll fees by Sanreal is not acceptable especially as the revenue collected in the process is not properly accounted for.
“We are disgusted that Sanral and the Department of Transport have this attitude and approach of continuously applying mandatory annual increases to all toll plazas in its growing toll network, whilst the use and income generated by the various tolling contracts have serious questions, about which Outa is busy conducting intensive research and investigation,” the Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said.
Duvenage further accused Sanral of enriching private entities to the detriment of consumers. He said toll even though toll concessionaire contracts could run for up to 30 years, the capital outlay for the initial construction of a toll road was yet a fixed capital cost. This, according to him, meant that the effective bond repayments on tolled roads decreases every year.
“However, in the case of Sanral’s conventional toll tariff structure, the toll fees keep increasing every year for the entire 30-year period, regardless of whether the capital amount has already been repaid, and far beyond the cost necessary to maintain the road.
“Toll roads have therefore become enormous tax-driven cash cows with guaranteed income for periods of up to 30 years for toll concessionaires and their connected companies,”
“Our research shows that toll contractors are able to award maintenance and construction contracts to themselves and/or their affiliates at inflated prices, driving up the costs, which the concessionaire justifies it has to recoup through its toll charges to the public,” said Duvenage.