Survey gives other view on e-tolls

The growth in the number of Gauteng residents who are willing to pay for e-tolls shows that this remains a viable option to fund road infrastructure in South Africa’s economic heartland.

Vusi Mona, SANRAL’s communications manager, says the findings of the Quality of Life Survey 2017/18 released by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory show that more than half of the respondents would be willing to pay for e-tolls. This is 10% higher than the comparative figures in the survey conducted in 2016.

“The survey results clearly contradict the perceptions created by special interest groups that there is overwhelming resistance against e-tolls in Gauteng or that it is an issue which is uppermost in the minds of residents.

“The findings will, no doubt, contribute to a more nuanced and constructive debate about the value that road infrastructure brings to a region’s economy and on the range of funding options that are available,” he says.

The bi-annual survey is conducted through a partnership between the Gauteng provincial government and the Universities of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand; sourcing opinions from some 25 000 respondents across every municipal ward in the province.

With regards to e-tolls, the respondents were asked whether they agree with the statement “I will never pay my e-tolls.” Some 51% of the participants either “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this statement.

This is a discernible growth from the 40% who agreed when the question was asked in 2016. In addition, strong opposition to e-tolls also declined from 12% to 9% in the corresponding period.

Christina Culwick, the senior researcher at the Gauteng City Region Observatory, says that 43% of respondents in the lowest income brackets indicated that e-tolls are not an issue for them because they do not use the freeways. “This suggest that e-tolls are a relatively progressive payment option for the freeway upgrades.”

The survey also shows that issues related to spatial inequalities – unemployment, crime and access to opportunities – are uppermost in the minds of Gauteng residents. The availability of a well-funded and well-maintained road infrastructure can contribute to solutions for these pressing problems.

“Government is busy with a comprehensive review of its policy on road infrastructure funding and the use of tolling as an option,” says Mona. “The GCRO survey results will, no doubt, add to the quality of information that is available to government.”

  • OUTA, which opposes e-tolls and urges people not to pay, has dismissed the report, saying its credibility is in question.
  • Culwick explained that the report reflected the answers to questions put to 25 000 respondents and added that the results are contrary to the view of Premier David Makhura that e-tolls have no future in Gauteng.