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Winelands Toll Project goes to court

By Staff Writer
The legal proceedings for the review of the Wineland’s Toll Project commenced on Tuesday this week in Western Cape High Court. The City of Cape Town is arguing that the South African National Road Agency’s (SANRAL) plans for the N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway Project should be reviewed and set aside.
 
The court proceedings
 
Brett Herron, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member of Transport, noted in a statement: “Central to the City’s arguments in seeking a court order that will scrap the proposed Winelands Toll Project is the fact that none of the decision makers – the SANRAL Board and the National Ministers of Transport and Environmental Affairs – considered vital information such as the projected costs of the project and the socio-economic impact of tolling on the residents of the Western Cape.”
 
During the court proceedings on Tuesday, the City’s legal team presented the projected costs for the toll project from R1,653 billion in March 2000 to R44,970 billion in March 2010. “This equals an increase of 2 620% over a period of 10 years and was never presented to or considered by the decision-makers,” revealed Herron.
 
“We argued that none of this evidence was available to the decision-makers and that it was a grave omission, given that that the colossal figures ultimately address the considerations about the viability of the Winelands Toll Project and the question of where the money to fund this project will come from. It is the City’s view that this evidence should have been considered for a proper decision to be made,” added Herron.
 
According to the papers submitted by the City, there is no evidence or record that “the SANRAL board considered and decided to declare portions of the N1 and N2 freeways as toll roads,” stated Herron.
 
DA responds to court proceedings
 
In a statement released by Bonginkosi Madikizela, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Western Cape Deputy Leader, noted: “The DA supports and backs the court action today by the City of Cape Town against SANRAL, opposing the introduction of draconian tolling on the Western Cape’s highways which stands to rob our poorest communities of access to opportunities and jobs.”
 
Among the many objections to the implementation of the tolls, is that it will place people further from job opportunities, and therefore achieving a better life for themselves and their families. In addition, it will also cost commuters possibly thousands of Rands a month to travel to and from Cape Town city centre.
 
According to the DA, the Western Cape toll fees will be almost three times higher than the fees charged in Gauteng. Furthermore, it believed that “this will place immense financial strain on already struggling communities and restrict freedom of movement and opportunity.”
 
The DA stated that the proposed tariffs are as follows:
  • The tariff for a light vehicle travelling on the N1 through the four toll pay points between Durbanville and De Doorns will be R144.96.
  • For a Class-4 vehicle (truck) the tariff will be R433.00.
  • A car travelling through the pay points on the N2 between Mitchells Plain and Botrivier, will have to pay R95.56 and a truck R381.00.
 
“Despite the immense socio-economic impact, SANRAL had not been able to provide any credible reason for the implementation of the planned toll roads. What’s more, SANRAL will save approximately R32.25 billion if it maintains and builds the N1 and N2 from their own funds instead of appointing a concessionaire to fund the work through tolling,” revealed Madikizela.
 
“SANRAL’s preferred bidder, Protea Parkway Consortium (PPC), proposed to fund this maintenance and construction through tolling, at a cost of a staggering R54.76 billion – 243% of what it would cost SANRAL,” added Madikizela.
 
What will be argued?
 
Prior to the court proceedings, Herron released a statement on Monday stating that since the City made the decision to fight the tolling project, it has faced resistance from SANRAL. This included a lack of transparency regarding the project and collaboration with the City.
 
During the court proceedings, Herron noted on Monday that the following points will be argued by the City:
  • The decision of the then National Minister for the Environment to provide an environmental authorisation for the tolling without considering the socio-economic impact of tolling, as he was required to do, was unlawful.
  • The decision of the then Minister of Transport to declare the highways as toll roads was also unlawful since he failed to consider the merits and impact of tolling.
  • The SANRAL Board never made the decision to declare the N1 and N2 as toll roads as it was required to do. By implication, we will argue that the decision to toll was made by the CEO of SANRAL who was unauthorised to do so.
  • The decision and the implementation of tolling will have a damaging impact on our city and regional economy and those impacts have not been properly considered.
  • The tolling of the N1 and N2 will cause disproportionate financial harm and hardship to the poorest of our residents.
  • In 2013 SANRAL was about to enter into a contract with PPC which would have been reckless and irrational. The City obtained an interim order preventing that agreement being signed.
  • The costs of the proposed tolls on the N1 and N2 significantly outweigh the benefits to toll-paying motorists.
 
Herron highlighted that motorists in Gauteng have opposed the implementation of the e-tolling system there. Since its introduction in Gauteng, many concession have been made in a bid to get motorists to pay. Among these is the recent announcement by deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa of “improvements” to the e-tolling system, which included reducing the e-toll tariffs to 30 cents per kilometre.
 
Herron pointed out that if the Winelands Toll Project is implemented, and the PPC tender is accepted, it will cost Western Cape motorists 84 cents per kilometre, higher than what motorists in Gauteng are paying.
 
“If motorists in the Western Cape and Gauteng were to be charged the same, then SANRAL would have to pay PPC a conservatively estimated R29 billion – in addition to the tolls which motorists would have to pay to PPC. SANRAL’s contingent liability is more than what it would cost SANRAL to construct the upgrades proposed by PPC and to continue maintaining and operating the N1 and N2 freeways as it currently does. SANRAL and the National Government never considered this massive risk and were unaware of it until the City discovered it when analysing the documents which SANRAL tried to keep secret,” revealed Herron.

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