Government and the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) will continue consultations on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) with a view to finding a solution, the parties said in a joint statement on Thursday.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee set up to look into all issues related to the GFIP, met with an OUTA delegation, led by its chairperson Wayne Duvenage in Pretoria yesterday.
The meeting formed part of the Inter-Ministerial Committee's consultation sessions with stakeholders on the GFIP.
The OUTA delegation included the South African Vehicle Rental and Lease Association, the Automobile Association, the South African National Consumer Union, Investment Solutions and the Retail Motor Industry.
"The meeting ...concluded that government and OUTA were in agreement on the need for roads that will serve the economy and citizens, the need for users to pay for road improvements, the need to decongest the country's roads and the need for more efficient public transport," said the joint statement.
OUTA had taken the SA National Roads Agency to court over the implementation of the e-toll system in Gauteng. The case, which government is appealing, was now at the Constitutional Court.
The e-tolling was due to commence on 30 April but has been put on hold pending the court case.
The Presidency said Thursday's meeting afforded OUTA an opportunity to highlight its objections to government's plans to fund improvements to Gauteng freeways by means of e-tolls to be paid by the road users.
The statement said OUTA welcomed the GFIP and commended the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) as a well-managed road-building entity but argued that e-tolling was not efficient or effective as a funding mechanism.
"OUTA welcomed the development of an integrated and efficient public transport network in Gauteng but said it was necessary for this to be complemented by continued road improvements."
The lobby group reiterated its view that the existing national fuel levy could be used to fund freeway improvements in view of the current use of the levy to build and maintain roads countrywide, and in view of Gauteng's significant contribution to the Gross Domestic Product and the national fiscus.
Government on the other hand stressed the need for users to pay for upgraded roads and the importance of combating road congestion, enabling commuters to make smarter choices in mobility and curbing urban sprawl, which feeds off individual car use, in the country's economic hub.
Government also highlighted "the range of improvements to public transport in Gauteng that provide alternatives to commuters, as well as the R550-a-month cap on GFIP toll fees".
Motlanthe told the meeting that government welcomed OUTA's engagement with government and undertook that Cabinet would consider proposals on alternatives through future consultations.