IT is becoming increasing clear that Sanral is desperate for money after its e-tolling disaster in Gauteng and it is looking for it in the Western Cape.
Sanral have just agreed to sell to a private company the right to continue tolling the Huguenot Tunnel for another 30 years for the sum of R400m. It seems they need the cash now and can’t wait for their new tolls.
Sanral professed to operate on the “user pays” principal but in the case of the tunnel the users had already paid for it and to continue tolling it amounted to a new form of taxation. Now it seems they are selling the right to taxation to a private company. This raises serious moral and legal problems.
The tunnel was completed in 1988 at a cost of R202.6 m and it had long since been paid for yet the toll fees increased every year. The Huguenot Tunnel is now highly profitable yet last year Sanral was complaining that it needed to be subsidised with income from the future N1 and N2 toll roads.
What Sanral is telling us does not make sense. The Chamber’s own conservative calculations of the income from tunnel toll fees is about R11m a month without taking into account the higher toll fees paid by trucks. Others put the figure even higher. The constructions costs have long since been paid so what is the money being used for?
The toll bridges on the Garden Route were built in the 1970’s and were fully paid for in the last century yet the toll fees continue to increase and are something like 10 times the original fees. This is not the ‘user pays’ principle. It is now a form of road tax that it is unfair to the local users.
There had been some amazing and inconsistent arguments from Sanral. The CEO, Mr Nazi Alli told the Chamber that a local fuel tax was impossible and he was concerned that electric cars would evade a fuel tax. Well that is a problem for the distant future and we can deal with it when it arises. A more pressing problem is false number plates and how long before someone comes up with a way of jamming the signals from e-tags?
In the face of these inconsistent and illogical Sanral stories we can only assume that Sanral wants Western Cape money to help bail it out in Gauteng.
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce