Lawyer slams decision-makers in toll road project

Geoff Budlender says officials have not considered whether tolling would be financially and socially viable.

FILE: The City of Cape Town legal team in the Western Cape High Court during battle involving the Winelands tolling of the N1 and N2 saga on 11 August 2015. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - None of the decision-makers who gave the Winelands Toll Project the green light considered whether tolling would be financially and socially viable, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.

The City of Cape Town is challenging the validity and lawfulness of a series of decisions that led to the highways being declared toll roads.

Last week, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) argued that tolling was the only option to fund upgrades to the N1 and N2 highways, because the alternative would be to abandon revamping roads.

The agency was interdicted in 2013 from going ahead with the toll project, pending the finalisation of the city's review application.

Advocate Geoff Budlender, acting on behalf of the city, on Monday argued that the transport minister was materially misinformed about the cost of the project when he approved the declaration to toll the highways.

He further argued the minister was told the upgrades would cost around R7.9 billion in 2008 but the actual cost had now ballooned to an estimated R59 billion.

The city, in court papers, said the minister had to have a reasonably accurate indication of the cost of the project and what the toll tariff would be in order to determine whether the project would be economically and practically viable.

The decision to declare the toll roads was published in the government gazette in September 2008.

Budlender added the public was not granted the opportunity to make effective representations.

The matter will resume on Tuesday.