Motorists will end up footing the R55 billion bill for the three-phase upgrading of Gauteng’s freeways scheduled for completion in 2018, Transport Minister Jeff Radebe announced today.

“This project will be financed through the ’user-pay’ principle, and it will allow our roads to be funded, without resorting to the national fiscus for such projects,” Radebe said in a speech prepared for delivery at the launch of the Gauteng Freeway Scheme, in Midrand.

“We also believe that this project will indeed promote the concepts of lift clubs as well as the usage of public transport,” he said.

“We are investing more than R12bn in the first phase of this project, due for completion by 2010,” said Radebe.

This would include the building of extra lanes, improvement of interchanges, and provision of hubs to surface and rail-based public transport facilities on the existing 180km freeway network.

Work had already started on the section of road between the R21 “Flying Saucer” interchange and the Atterbury interchange, in Pretoria.

“For the second phase, which is due for completion in 2015, we will invest R20bn and R23bn for the final phase to be completed in 2018.”

He said the tolling of the road system would begin in 2010/11, through the building of 47 gantries, about 11km apart, on existing roads.

“It is estimated that contributions will accrue to the GDP (gross domestic product) of R14.2bn and R15.3bn in 2008 and 2009 through our freeway scheme.

“The Gauteng GGP (gross geographic product) for the same years will benefit to R6.3bn and R6.7bn.”

Radebe said the project was expected to create more than 30,000 direct jobs and 138,900 indirect opportunities.

“The total value of the infrastructure will provide a R39,7bn contribution to capital formation, on completion, and R60bn over a 20-year period.”

He said freeways in Gauteng carried up to 180,000 vehicles a day.

“We are aware that the congestion on the main routes has substantial adverse effects on the amount of time that people can spend with their families, their productivity in the workplace, levels of frustration and unhappiness of drivers, and also has an effect on the environment through excessive emissions.”

Radebe said the Intelligent Transport System in place to monitor and optimise the traffic flow on the Ben Schoeman Highway, was already being implemented over another 180km of the freeway network.

“By the end of October 2007, fibre optic cables and CCTV (closed circuit television) installation for this section will be completed, adding another 180 cameras to the system.

“We are also currently installing a further 49 variable message signs on the network, which is scheduled to be operational in April 2008,” he said.

The system incorporated high occupancy vehicle lanes and ramp metering.

Radebe said it had to be borne in mind that road building and development alone would not address future growth in the region, and that other solutions to congestion would have to be found.

It was for this reason that the development of the road system would be supported by, among others, the Gautrain, a national rail plan, and a bus rapid transport system.

The support of all South Africans was “of paramount importance” in the completion of the project, he said.