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'Sanral can't afford another ratings downgrade'

Nazir Alli says Sanral not only has to pay debt for the tolled roads, it also needs funds for maintenance.

Sanral CEO Nazir Alli. Picture: EWN.

PRETORIA - The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) says it can't afford another ratings downgrade as this will mean it will have fewer investors.

The roads agency has been making representations to the Gauteng e-tolls review panel in Pretoria.

Sanral has also slammed a media report suggesting that the organisation is broke.

Chief executive Nazir Alli says not only does the agency have to pay back the debt for the new tolled roads in the province, it also needs funds for maintenance.

He says if the company is downgraded again, it will have a devastating impact.

"We cannot afford to have another downgrade. The cost of borrowing is already increasing for us because of the external forces. If we get another downgrade then we down into junk status."

Sanral's rating will be reviewed later this month while the panel's final report will be submitted to the provincial government before the end of this month.

The roads agency has defended the implementation of tolling in Gauteng, saying while government may have covered initial road upgrades, there isn't enough state money to maintain the highways.

The panel was established by Gauteng Premier David Makhura to assess the economic and social impact of e-tolls on motorists in the province.

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said the tolling of Gauteng's highways was the brainchild of the provincial government in 1996 and not a national plan that was imposed on the province.

Peters dismissed criticism that government has been insensitive to the concerns of the community.

The minister said she hopes her department's engagement with the panel will address half-truths, and settle lies.

The controversial e-tolling system went live on 3 December after months of legal wranglings, protests and calls for civil disobedience.

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