THE Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry is shocked to learn that the 26-year-old Hugenot Tunnel now needs to be subsidised by income from the unwanted N1 and N2 toll roads.
“The tunnel was the original toll road and one that has always been accepted by business and motorists because it offers value for money,” said Ms Janine Myburgh, President of the Chamber. “There has never been any suggestion that it was not a viable project or that it needed a subsidy.”
Peter Hugo, chairman of the Chamber’s Transport portfolio committee, pointed out that after 26 years the construction costs of the tunnel had probably been paid for and all that was required was toll fees to cover maintenance and operating costs. “In fact, one can argue that toll fees should be reduced once construction costs are recovered.”
Last year the Chamber suggested that the real reason why Sanral was so keen to go ahead with N2 and N3 toll roads in the Cape was that it needed income from these tolls to subsidise its disastrous Gauteng Freeway Project. “There was no way that people in the Cape would agree to that so now we have the suggestion that it is the Hugenot Tunnel that has to be subsidised. We are not going to fall for this one,” Mr Hugo said.
He pointed out that the tunnel toll fees had not only been sufficient to pay for the existing tunnel but they had also paid for the second bore. “If normal toll fees were sufficient to pay for the original tunnel plus the extra bore and operating costs there is no reason why normal toll fees should not pay for the completion of the project,” he said.
The subsidy also raised the question of why a Somerset West commuter to Cape Town should pay for a tunnel he never used. “This is a complete perversion of the user-pays principle which Sanral uses to justify its toll roads,” Mr Hugo said.
He recalled that when the N2 and the wine lands toll roads were suggested there was broad opposition to them. “There was not a single credible voice in support of these toll roads during the public participation process and it was clear that only Sanral and those who hoped to work on the project were in favour. Every credible organisation from the Chamber to the City Council and the Province opposed those toll roads. Now it seems Sanral is still looking for a reason to justify the unwanted new toll roads.”
Ms Myburgh said Sanral should sort out its e-tolling fiasco in Gauteng before it started building toll roads in the Cape. “It’s got too much hay on its fork and the organisation is in no shape to tackle more toll road projects, especially in our Western Cape.”