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E-tolling gets the go-ahead

The North Gauteng High Court has dismissed Outa’s application to have e-tolling scrapped.

Sanral CEO celebrates in court on 13 December 2012, after the North Gauteng High Court dismissed OUTA’s application to have e-tolling in Gauteng abandoned. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN

PRETORIA - The North Gauteng High Court on Thursday dismissed the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance's (Outa) application to have e-tolling in Gauteng scrapped, giving the controversial project the green light.

Outa had argued the public were deliberately kept in the dark about the full implications of the multibillion rand system.

But Judge Louis Vorster sided with government, which argued the courts had no right to interfere in large-scale policy decisions.

In a stinging judgment, Vorster ruled the alliance had relied too heavily on inferences and had gone too far in its challenge.

This has proved to be an overwhelming victory for the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) and National Treasury, with Judge Vorster dismissing each of the grounds of the application.

He ruled government had done enough to communicate the project with the public and criticised the alliance for pushing this challenge too far, despite losing at the Constitutional Court.

Judge Vorster not only dismissed the application, but ordered the alliance to pay government's legal costs incurred and at the High Court and at the Constitutional Court.

"I make the following orders: One, the application is dismissed. Two: the applicants are jointly and severally ordered to pay the costs of the respondents, excepting the sixth respondent which did not take part in this hearing.

"Three: the applicants are ordered to pay jointly and severally the costs reserved by the Constitutional Court, to the respondents that participated in that appeal before the Constitutional Court."

He made it clear the decision of the highest court in the land bound him in his judgment.

It is unlikely that the alliance will fight this any further because of a parallel process in parliament.

E-toll gantries are not expected to be switched on until at least February.

Revenue collected from e-tolls will pay off a 2007 debt incurred by Sanral, for the construction of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).