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Transport Dept to study panel's e-tolls assessment

The Transport Department says it will study the findings of the e-tolls assessment panel.

An e-toll gantry on the N1 in Johannesburg. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Transport Department says it will study the findings of the e-tolls assessment panel released on Thursday.

The panel's report was released on Thursday by Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

The panel found middle and low income households are carrying the financial burden of the infamous gantries and it recommends a hybrid model of funding.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters says it will remain committed to ensuring the e-tolls network is affordable for everyone.

The department's Ishmael Mnisi says, "The minister and the department of transport remains committed towards ensuring a reliable, effective, efficient and economical transport system that is responsive to the socio-economic conditions of all South Africans."

COSATU: E-TOLLING FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says it's disappointed that the e-tolls assessment panel has not recommended the complete abolishment of tolling on Gauteng's highways.

Among its 50 findings, the report also suggests that elements of the system must be reviewed.

Makhura said the e-toll assessment panel's report suggests that township-based enterprises are being forced to travel on tolled highways to do business in cities.

He said people who can only afford to live on the outskirts of the province are hit the hardest by e-tolling fees.

Makhura said the report will now be extensively discussed with national government in order to come up with a definite solution on how to pay back the South African National Road Agency Limited (Sanral)'s debt and fund future road infrastructure.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven says the panel itself has now admitted that it's the poor who are paying a higher price for the project.

"It ended up contradicting itself by trying to suggest that there may be some way it can be tweaked to make it acceptable but it is fundamentally wrong."

The Gauteng government has said that it wants to discuss this with national government.

While the African National Congress (ANC) has said it welcomes this report and wants national government to give this serious consideration.

Last year, the ANC in Gauteng adopted a resolution not to support the multi-billion rand system.

At the same time, the Transport Ministry has responded to the e-tolls assessment panel's report, saying it's committed to ensuring all South Africans have access to affordable transport.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters is now set to study the recommendations made by the panel together with Sanral.

The Department of Transport says it will not prosecute any motorists who are not paying their e-toll bills at this stage as long as government is still in talks about the system and administrative glitches are not dealt with.

SANRAL AGAINST THE ROPES

Sanral meanwhile says it will only take instructions from national government over e-tolls, but has promised to implement whatever solution is agreed to.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is leading talks with the Gauteng government to consider the recommendations made by the assessment panel dealing with e-tolls.

Sanral's Vusi Mona says it must be kept in mind that the agency has a massive debt to repay.

A meeting between political parties, labour and business will be held next month to discuss the most affordable way for motorists to pay for the upgraded highways.

The controversial e-tolling system went live on 3 December, 2013, despite public outcry.

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