A PROPOSAL to build tollgates on Gauteng’s freeways is gaining momentum, with the public being given 30 days to make written submissions.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) , which reports to the national transport department, has issued a list of 36 tollgates it plans to install on the N1, N3, N4 and N12 freeways in the province.

Members of the public have until November 14 to express their views on the proposal to Sanral.

Company spokeswoman Wendy Watson said last week that the project, which involves adding extra lanes to the freeways and building new roads, would cost about R23bn — and not R60bn, as was widely reported last week.

The project was expected to be completed by 2015.

The new tollgates could alleviate traffic congestion by encouraging motorists to use public transport.

“The design of these roads has taken into account the need to move from private vehicles to public transport by concentrating on intermodal transport options and a high-occupancy vehicle lane to facilitate quick travel by bus or taxi,” said Watson.

But the Automobile Association (AA) said the tollgates would not reduce congestion, which it said was caused by backlogs in the road infrastructure.

AA spokesman Gary Ronald said: “Our major concerns are the impact tolls will have on minor side roads and streets which were not designed for the volumes of traffic which will inevitably come from the introduction of tolls.”

The South African Commuter Organisation (Saco), which represents the interests of public transport commuters, agreed, said that the government should improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of the public transport system before calling for people to leave their cars at home. Saco president Stephen Sangweni said recently that public transport was infrequent, was not integrated and did not cover enough routes to serve commuters adequately.

Sanral said that, unlike the existing toll plazas on national roads, the new gantries would operate automatically, using electronic toll collection.

The electronic toll collection system, widely used in Japan, Europe and the US, allows vehicles equipped with a microchip or transponder to pass through tollgates without the driver having to stop to pay.

The transponder, usually attached to the windscreen, operates by sending radio signals from the vehicle to the tollgate computer system.

Drivers are required to buy prepaid cards or tags to pass through the gates.

Sanral said in weekend newspaper advertisements that part of the N1 stretching between the Golden Highway and the Allandale interchange in Midrand would have 10 tollgates, five on each side of the freeway.

The section of the N1 from the New Road interchange in Midrand to the Lynnwood road interchange east of Pretoria would have seven tollgates — four on the northbound lanes and three on the opposite side.

The N12 would have a total of nine tollgates. The part of the road stretching between Gilooly’s in the east of Johannesburg and the border between Gauteng and Mpumalanga would have five tollgates.

The section of the N12 from the Diepkloof interchange outside Soweto to the Reading interchange in Alberton would have four tollgates.

The N3 between the Buccleuch interchange in northern Johannesburg and Heidelberg road, southeast of the city, would have eight tollgates, four on each side of the road.

The N4 would have two toll plazas.

PUBLICATION: Business Day
AUTHOR: Khulu Phasiwe
DATED: 16th October 2007