The CGCSA applauded the Gauteng government when they acknowledged public and business's outcry over the tariff finalisation process.
We were optimistic when the Minister agreed to put the process on hold so that concerns would be properly addressed by the Steering Committee that was formed to deal with this issue. Business saw this as an opportunity to once again put forward our views as stakeholders; however, from the recent Cabinet approval of the toll tariffs for phase A1 announced on the 10 August 2011, we clearly were still not heard. The new tariffs listed as follows: Motorcycles (Class A1) 24c/km; Light (Class A2) 40c/km; Medium vehicles (Class B) 100c/km; Longer vehicles (Class C) 200c/km and Qualifying commuter taxis (Class A2) and commuter busses (Class B) are exempted. Good news for taxis and busses but what about the rest of the commuters and business owners.
Let us go on record by stating that we are not opposed to the better integration of existing public transport, improving the reliability of public transport and improving the safety and security on our roads. We acknowledge the findings of the Steering Committee report stating that the user pay system is found to be an attractive option for developing countries for fast implementation of infrastructure projects and that toll financing has an advantage of providing infrastructure earlier than would have been possible with financing through general taxation, hence the benefit of roadway capacity being available to the public sooner. The question is whether the usage of the toll road exceeds the costs incurred for the use of the toll road for users which is the core basis that was used when a decision was taken to implement the toll project.
The social study report conducted by University of Johannesburg which highlighted that long periods spent commuting to and from work will have a negative impact on the amount of time spent together as a family, fail to understand that this situation will be greater exacerbated by the fact that now longer hours of overtime etc. will have to be worked to allow for the funding of the additional transport expense in utilising the toll roads. The purpose of promoting a healthier family environment will be negated by the added financial stress on households with their transport budget greatly increased as a result of the toll fee's, not to mention the possible increase of food prices as a result of increase by business to incorporate the increased travel costs.
Further, all that will happen is that motorists will find alternative routes through municipal areas which will put an added strain on these networks. In order to save costs the same commuters who were meant to be spending more quality time indoors will now be spending even more time on the road trying to use back roads to avoid the freeways.
An even more dismal scenario is that some people will just not be able to afford to travel to work anymore and will possibly have to leave their jobs to find something closer to their homes and if these are not available the unemployment rate will rise. This definitely is not in line with our President's focus on job creation.
The submission put forward is that if the Toll is enforced more people will be encouraged to use the public transport system, but until the public transport system is improved this is like flogging a dead horse! It is all good and well that government is spending R30.2 billion over the next three years for rail upgrades across the country, with R19.5 billion earmarked for capital spending to upgrade existing infrastructure, signalling systems and rolling stock, but this is only in next three years.
The Public Transport System needs to be first developed and then the tolls explored to encourage the use of same. According to the submission from the SA Local Government Association, the user pay method was based on the US, UK and Canada principle, which are countries which already have viable public transport initiatives. We are a far cry from that!
Small Business is going to be greatly affected by this as they are already struggling to keep their heads above the water. Now their transportation costs are going to be increased which is putting further pressure on them to survive with their profit margins already so low.
Most stakeholders like us submit that it is none other than the state's responsibility to fund infrastructure development and maintenance in the country.
- Patricia Pillay - Head of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs (LRA) / South Africa Retail Council (SARC) CGCSA.