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Focus shifts to long-term impact of e-tolls

Gantries around Gauteng went live yesterday after a year-and-a-half of court battles and protests.

E-tolls went live on 3 December at midnight without any system faults being reported. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - With day one of e-tolling out of the way, the focus now shifts to the long-term effects of the controversial project and how it will affect Gauteng's roads and the country's economy.

Gantries around the province went live yesterday after a year-and-a-half of court battles, protests and threats of civil disobedience.

It was a tense day with critics continuing their assault on the multibillion rand system.

Yesterday was a test for the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral)'s systems and an important psychological hurdle for the roads agency and motorists.

But the effects e-tolling will have on Gauteng's road network will take time to emerge and can't be measured in one day.

There are also fears that the price of food and other goods will rise, given the extra cost to companies of delivering them, along with a spike in the petrol price.

There could also be political consequences with warnings by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) that the ANC in Gauteng stands to lose the most votes.

But the party's Jessie Duarte insists motorists must register.

"I have never had a problem with the system and enjoy the roads very much."

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe says even he doesn't enjoy paying for the tolls, but it has to be done.

"Every time I have to pay for anything it's painful and I don't enjoy it. This is the same feeling about e-tolling and it will be particularly strong among the bottom end of the middle class who will be squeezed the most."

So far, around 800,000 e-tags have been purchased.

There are an estimated 2.5 million road users in Gauteng.

COSATU URGES MOTORISTS TO DEREGISTER

Cosatu says it plans to "unleash" various forms of protests in the new year against the system and declared yesterday's launch day as ' Black Tuesday'.

The trade union federation's Dumisani Dakile says the launch represents how government refused to consider the public's views.

But he says motorists who have already registered for e-tags still have an opportunity to join their campaign.

"If you are able to register you must also be allowed to deregister."

Cosatu's deregistration form

Dakile says motorists must remain defiant and unite against the system.

"The only way for us to stop this thing is not through Facebook or Twitter, it needs mass mobilisation."

MOTORISTS MUST COUGH UP

The Department of Transport and Sanral have reiterated their call for Gauteng motorists to register for e-tags and pay their toll fees.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters was speaking at a press conference at Sanral's Central Operations Centre in Midrand yesterday.

Peters said the decision to implement e-tolls wasn't taken lightly and was made after due consideration of various options.

"This decision was taken after consideration of the availability of the proposed road tolling system in comparison with alternative funding options such as fuel levy, shadow tolling, licence fees, traffic fines and development impact fees."

Motorists registering for e-tolls. Picture: Dineo Guruu via Twitter.

The minister said four court cases to halt the implementation of the system have failed and the courts have ruled in favour of Sanral and the government.

"It's sad when those who profess to be democrats question the dignity of the judiciary and won't accept its ruling because the decisions haven't gone their way."

DISABLED RESIDENTS LEFT IN THE LURCH

Disabled Gauteng residents say they've been left in the lurch after Sanral promised they would be exempt from paying tolls.

The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) held a demonstration outside the e-toll customer service centre in Rivonia yesterday.

Members also set a wheelchair on fire.

QASA's Ari Serlis says the government has failed people with disabilities.

"It is an absolute insult to people with disabilities."

IMPACT ON TRAFFIC

Throughout Tuesday, Eyewitness News had a helicopter monitoring traffic over Gauteng.

In the morning, the chopper reported few significant changes in the traffic patterns, though tolled highways flowed freely while alternate routes took some strain under the added pressure.

Image taken by EWN's Aki Anastasiou from the traffic chopper.

In the afternoon, with the added impact of heavy rain, traffic on many major roads was gridlocked.

Tolled roads remained busy, but alternate routes including the R101, R55, Witkoppen Road and the M1 south were under unusual strain.

However, it will take time for the full effects of e-tolling to become apparent.

Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Ismail Vadi said some drivers might adjust their routes indefinitely.

"We anticipate, over the next few months, there might be changes in travel patterns. That is understandable. Some people might choose to opt permanently to go onto the alternative roads because they might find the tolled network too expensive."

Vadi said government will continue to maintain and upgrade supporting routes.

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