Of the R22-billion allocated to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement project (GFIP), R6- billion will be spent up to 2010, when the soccer World Cup is scheduled to take place.

The GFIP is a South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) project.

Sanral northern region manager Ismail Essa says the project’s first visible work will be the addition of one lane each way on the Ben Schoeman highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg, with work set to start next year.

The extra lanes will be high-occupancy vehicle lanes, reserved for vehicles carrying three or more people.

Owing to space constraints inhibiting expansion, all the lanes on this highway will become narrower than what is currently the case.

The Buccleuch and Brakfontein interchanges are also set for upgrades, while the Allandale bridge across the Ben Schoeman highway will be widened.

Essa says later work will include the addition of two lanes each way on the R21 airport highway, also reserved for high-occupancy vehicles.

Under the GFIP, most roads in Gauteng province will become toll roads, such as the Ben Schoeman and R21 highways.

Essa says the likely toll fee will be 30c a kilometre. The toll fee will be collected electronically along the route, with no toll gates to be erected.

Tolling will only start after 2010, he adds.

The toll roads will be managed by Sanral, as they are not ideal candidates for public–private partnerships.

“There are too many alternative roads motorists can take to avoid tolling, posing a risk to a concessionaire,” explains Essa.

The GFIP will be implemented in three phases.

The initial construction work, improvement and upgrades, such as adding lanes to the Ben Schoeman highway, are scheduled to continue until 2013, with expansion to existing highways to be implemented between 2013 and 2018.

The construction of greenfields highways is proposed for only after 2018, notes Essa.

In total, the GFIP will see the upgrading and building of about 500 km of roads around the Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni metros.