TRANSPORT Minister S’bu Ndebele has called a halt to the further tolling of national roads, including the controversial proposal for the N2 Wild Coast road, which would have resulted in the construction of a toll gate at Isipingo.
A statement released by the Transport Ministry yesterday stated that Ndebele believed that consultative processes should be allowed to take place to offer concerned parties the opportunity to share their views on toll road programmes.
“All spheres of the government should be part of a consultative process with all affected parties, consumers in the main. Good infrastructure is a necessity for a better future for our country, but this requirement must not leave our people even poorer,” Ndebele said.
Transport Ministry spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso said the consultative process was intended to result in suggestions and a solution regarding the tolling of roads.
“We are allowing for all views to be heard because it has become an overwhelming issue,” he said.
Rikhotso said there was no deadline for the consultative processes to begin, but the department was dealing with the matter “as a matter of urgency”.
SA National Roads Agency Limited CEO Nazir Ali said Ndebele’s statement meant that all future toll road proposals had been halted.
Cormac Cullinan, an attorney representing South Coast residents opposed to the Wild Coast toll road, was delighted to hear of the minister’s move.
“It is a very sensible move because the government would be spending billions of taxpayers’ money for these projects. Tolling is also an extremely inefficient way of raising money for the upkeep and maintenance of roads. They are building a high speed but limited access road in the Wild Coast area without considering the option of upgrading existing roads,” he said.
Cullinan said that the area’s natural biodiversity could also be threatened by roadworks.“The construction of the toll road is like driving a knife in the heart of the wildlife in the area. Previously, the government was not properly committed to discussing tolling with concerned parties. I am delighted with the move… it is in the interests of the country to inquire and rethink the issue,” he said.Ted Holden, chairman of the Upper South Coast Anti-Toll Focus Group, said more than 500 000 residents of the area were opposed to the construction of the toll road.“The construction of a toll road would cause blockages to a major arterial route and will divert traffic and heavy goods vehicles into suburban areas, which will contribute to the deterioration of roads and cost the municipality more money for maintenance,” he said.
“The toll road on the Wild Coast will not be financially viable. It is a good decision for the minister to halt all process with regards to toll roads; he needs to engage with us because no one in our area wants the toll road to be built.”
The Wild Coast toll road was proposed in 2000, sparking opposition from businesses, residents and conservationists in and around the area.
In July this year, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa gave the go-ahead for construction of the road from Durban to East London.
She rejected 50 legal appeals against the proposal, setting the stage for construction of several new cash-collection points on the N2, including a major toll plaza near Isipingo.
The cabinet recently appointed a task team including Ndebele and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to look into the toll roads issue.
Also now on hold is the R10 billion Winelands toll in the Western Cape, while legal challenges to Gauteng’s R22bn toll network are outstanding.