In the largest case of social disobedience since the fall of Apartheid the residents of South Africa’s most populous province seem to have beaten the nasty corporate giant that is Sanral (South African Roads Agency Limited) and the dreaded e-tolls that the company instituted.
But undeterred by the lack of success in Gauteng Sanral has now focussed its attention on the Western Cape, and more specifically the N1, N2 and N7.
This private company has already started working on N7, responsible the upgrade between Melbosstrand and Philadelpia. That 33 month project cost R330 million.
While Sanral insists that it is not a profit-driven company the firm seems to be doing its best to conceal its fees structure for the proposed toll roads on the N1 and N2. Sanral initially tried to hide the proposed toll fees for the other upgrades.
The N1/N2 Winelands upgrade, which is some 175km long, requires an estimated R10 billion investment in 2010 terms, when the proposal was originally put forward.
N1 and N2
Sanral has claimed that the N1 and N2 are in dire need of upgrading as the levels of congestion are affecting business and the quality of life of residents who have to commute into and out of the city centre.
According to communications manager of Sanral, Vusi Mona, years’ of underinvestment by the city “has turned the road network into virtual parking lots.”
According to mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron the City (of Cape Town) was not responsible for any major portion of the N1 or N2, and any alleviation of traffic congestion on those roads was Sanral’s responsibility. Herron said the section of the N1 and N2 controlled by the City were among the best maintained roads in the city and had enjoyed “substantial investment”.
“We are responsible for addressing these road constraint conditions and we are implementing phased road improvements to address this. We are doing so without privatising the roads and burdening our residents with toll fees,” Herron said to the Cape Times.
Trying to hide
Sanral has been tight-lipped about the proposed fees that Western Cape motorists can expect to pay when, rather than if, the upgrades go ahead. This resulted in a legal battle between the City of Cape Town and Sanral over the secrecy regarding the tariffs.
Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli initially claimed that the information on the costing implications of the project should be withheld until Sanral was able to file its answering papers so the public would have “both sides of the story”. The release of “highly confidential and sensitive” information would be detrimental to the bidders for project tenders and the public.
The Supreme Court of Appeal judge, Visvanathan Ponnan, said in his judgment: “This appeal raises matters of the greatest public importance to the people of Cape Town and the region, involving as it does the construction and tolling of principal motorways in a project to be undertaken by an organ of state.”
“The SCA ruling is a victory for transparency and accountability and the constitutionally enshrined right of access to information that is held by the state and its entities,” said Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for Transport for Cape Town.
Expect high fees
Since the decision it has come to lights that the fees could be as high as 84,59 c/km for motorists, roughly three times the 29c amount that Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) set for light vehicles.
At those rates Protea Parkways Consortium (PPC), the company awarded the construction tender by Sanral, is expected to gain about R48 billion in toll revenue during the concession period.
According to studies only 29c in every rand spent by motorists will go towards construction, maintenance and operational work, which leaves a decent slice of profit for PPC. In an advert taken out by Sanral it claims that road users would pay R2 in fees for every R1 of benefit. Whichever way you look at it PPC seems to be the real winner in this scenario.
According the Herron SANRAL has not considered the option of constructing the upgrades to the N1 and N2 freeways by using public money, even though it is much more efficient and that is how the majority of roads in South Africa are financed.
“It is of great concern that SANRAL, as a public entity, is not committed to the founding principles of our constitutional democracy such as openness, transparency and accountability,” said Herron.
Proposed toll booths will be placed at:
- Huguenot Tunnel, (the existing one) and ramp plazas on 101, and,
- Kuils River (between Swartklip Interchange and Somerset West),
- Botriver with a ramp plaza on R43.