CEO of e-tolls collections company Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), Coenie Vermaak, says that unless Sanral can start the next phase of its Gauteng freeway upgrade project, motorists should expect hours-long commutes from Joburg to Pretoria in the next 20 years.
Speaking to Moneyweb, Vermaak explained that the non-payment of e-tolls has become a major issue, and has effectively frozen Sanral’s ability to maintain and expand road networks.
The initial cost of the e-toll project – phase one of the Sanral’s plans – was over R22 billion, but its debt has now escalated to over R40 billion – which means South Africa needs to pay R1 billion a year to service debt repayments.
These payments were meant to come from Gauteng motorists who use the roads, with collections handled via e-tolls; however, compliance has been extremely low, and so the money has had to come from government and other parts of Sanral’s budget.
Phase two of the project has been postponed indefinitely as a result – and much of the ‘good’ e-tolls have brought, such as more open roads, are already being undone.
“People are already noticing the growing congestion on the highways,” Vermaak said.
“Unless we get busy with Phase Two of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), which involves building 158 kilometres of new roads to redirect traffic away from the congestion areas, you better get prepared for a six-hour commute between Joburg and Pretoria.
“This is how long we project it will take by 2037 if we don’t address this problem urgently,” he said.
Vermaak previously said that e-tolls were now a political issue, but despite the bluster and talk of scrapping from politicians, the system would not be going anywhere and will be around long after the elections.
ETC is wholly owned by Austrian group Kapsch Trafficom, which built the e-tolls in South Africa. The group’s contract for collecting toll fees is coming to an end in December 2019.
South Africa’s e-toll project has consistently been the biggest liability on Kapsch’s books, and the system, including collection, is by far the biggest project it has in its portfolio.