Photo: Duane Daws

Photo: Duane Daws

The Presidency on Friday released a statement in defence of the controversial e-tolling system, asserting that it was part of a far broader infrastructure plan intended to develop world-class infrastructure that would boost economic growth and development in South Africa.

While acknowledging that tolling had, like all measures which added to the existing financial commitments of consumers, “been met with some uneasiness and unhappiness”, it suggested that commuters were not fully informed of the benefits and exemptions afforded by the system.

“Some information that is important for consumers to know appears not to have found its way into the public domain in a visible way. One is that workers travelling in buses and taxis are exempted from e-tolls, as these modes of transport pass through the gantries free of charge.

“Transport services in South Africa are ably supported by the minibus taxi industry, ferrying about 60% of the population in Gauteng daily. They form an integral part of the integrated transport system value chain,” commented presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj.

He added that the Gauteng government had adopted the “user pays” principle to enable the speedy and efficient delivery of transport infrastructure, and had upgraded alternative roads to assist those who did not want to use the tolled roads.

Among these was the R55 that ran parallel to the N1 from Woodmead, Sunderland Ridge, Laudium and Pretoria West, which also linked “well” with the Mabopane freeway.

“This is a high-quality, dual-carriage road and is not tolled,” said Maharaj.

The M1 between Woodmead drive and Corlett drive had also been upgraded at a cost of R86-million to include four lanes, thereby easing traffic on the busiest section of the Gauteng freeway network.

For motorists travelling from the south of Johannesburg, the R82, or the Old Vereeniging road, had being developed into a dual-carriage way between Eikenhof and Walkerville.

In addition, the N12 near Lenasia and Eldorado Park had been widened into three lanes each way, while the Golden Highway had been “rehabilitated”.

“The section between Potgieter street, in Pretoria, and the Brakfontein interchange, in Centurion, has been widened from two to three lanes at a cost of R115-million.

“The sinkhole at Jean avenue, in Centurion, has also been fully repaired at a cost of R59-million,” the Presidency noted, adding that the R25 between Bronkhorstspruit and Kempton Park had also been “rehabilitated”.

In addition, as part of a “massive” infrastructure programme, government said it was determined to make rail transport the backbone of public transport in Gauteng, with the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa allocating R120-billion over the next ten years to buy new trains.

“A total of 2 800 trains will be delivered next year in Gauteng,” said Maharaj.

In addition, Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni had detailed plans to roll out bus rapid transit systems, which would cost some R10-billion.