Saturday, 4 October 2008

Road trip to the Mother City #2: What benefits from tolling our roads?

Can someone explain to me what the benefits are of toll roads in South Africa?

I have just used the N1 from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and was fortunate enough to only have to use 4 toll roads along the way.

Now my idea of a toll road is that I am required to pay an extra charge for the use of the road, but that the road provides me some extra benefit. So therefore I understand paying a toll for the Hugenot Tunnel near Paarl – where the tunnel through the mountain saves 12 kilometers off the trip, and significantly reduces the stress of the trip, that you don’t have to drive over the Du Toitskloof pass.

But what such benefit do the Grasmere, Kroonvaal or Verkeerdevlei toll roads provide?

To my mind, all I can see is that the maintenance of these national roads has been outsourced or subcontracted, to outside contractors, rather than a government agency or department. But I was taught at high school that roads are a “public good” (in the sense of being a commodity) and as such, I always thought that the government should be providing the public with good, safe roads – not just providing the public with arteries to travel, but delivering good transport links to the country’s economy. And this service is funded using the tax money that us good natured tax payers so happily pass over every pay day.

So perhaps then the toll should might rather be seen as a “pay as you drive” tax, something which targets those members of the public that most utilise this resource. So the more you use this, the more you would pay.
But surely this would mean that the taxes derived by tolling the users of the road, would therefore not have to be collected from the general public – meaning a reduction in tax paid by the public – either on their salaries, through fuel tax, or motor vehicle tax.

I am unaware of any such tax deductions having been passed over to the South African tax payer.

So what then do I get from paying a toll to use a motor way?

And the saga gets worse…
Between Springfontein and the Orange River there are no less than 3 stretches of road works where another toll road just looks destined to pop up it’s greedy green eyes in the near future.

I recently downloaded a map of the Toll Road locations throughout South Africa from the National Roads agency website, and it lists no less than 51 Toll Road locations. Some of these are sub-sections of the main toll roads, just to ensure that enough of the country is covered by tolls.

So please – with this phenomenon seemingly being so popular, please could someone tell me what benefit I derive from paying tolls on South African roads?


eishman said...

This one of my big bug-bears, particularly since the Western Cape Provincial government plans to add two toll roads within the Cape Town system, one for the new 'ring' road and the other at the Somerset West N2 section soon to be reconstructed. We pay our income tax a portion of which is used for general infrastructure maintenance, we pay tax for the roads whenever we put a litre of petrol in our cars and we pay rates which a portion is used for ... road maintenence. And now they want us to pay FOR THE FOURTH TIME to use the roads!!!

Mike said...

Thanks for submitting your comment, Eishman.
It certainly seems like we are being asked to pay several times over for the same thing - and often for something that ought not to have to be paid for in the first place!

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