HIDDEN COSTS: Experts say a fuel levy would work better and be cheaper to collect. Picture: SAPA
As companies, civil society groups and political parties gear up for a court battle to halt the implementation of toll gates on Gauteng freeways, a recent announcement that toll fees will be inflation-linked would scare most people.
The scene is set for fees to become the norm for motorists with the implementation date set for April 30. Should the court bid fail to halt the toll go-ahead, The New Age considered a number of cost scenarios that motorists will face, now and over the next five years, bearing in mind an inflation guesstimate.
Senior economist at Econometrix, Tony Twine, explained that over 12 months, beginning at the end of April 2012, he expected consumer price inflation (CPI) to hover around the 5.5% mark. Twine said: “For the sake of benchmarking, we would then predict average annual CPI increases of 4.5% per annum for the four years following 2013. It is not clear, but the R550 per person per month cap Gordhan announced will likely increase annually by inflation.”
Many Gauteng motorists do the daily commute between Pretoria and Johannesburg, or vice versa. From the Atterbury Road off-ramp in Pretoria to the William Nicol Drive off-ramp in Sandton, for example, is roughly 46km travelling under nine gantries. At the revised 30c/km rate, an average motorist would then drive 92km a day through 18 gantries on the N1 at a cost of R27.60 per day.
The R550 capped fee per month allows a motorist with a registered e-tag to travel 1833km. If the person worked 21.5 days a month, they would drive 1978kms. The 145km travelled over the capped kilometres is then toll-free mileage.
Twine warned: “Anything with a built-in inflation component, such as the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is suggesting, does not produce any gain in benefit over time. All you are doing is redirecting resources away from the people who are paying, toward the people who are being paid.
“In turn, the people who are being paid are seeing their costs increase because service providers are doing the same thing to them. It becomes a vicious circle. If the spiral builds up momentum of its own, then it can lead to additional levels of inflation that can spiral upwards.”
Between 30% and 40% of the revenue gathered monthly by Sanral will go toward covering the cost of extracting toll fees from motorists, said Twine, and this percentage was exorbitant, considering the cheaper option of slightly increasing the fuel levy and having to collect the revenue from petrol companies.
Below is an estimate of monthly and annual tolls fees, considering inflation over the next five years, based on the average Pretoria/Joburg commuter.