SANRAL’s response to the Automobile Association’s (AA) article, titled Tolling Policy Causing Road Decay (dated 18 November 2014), should be viewed against the background of the South African Government’s assertion that transport is the heartbeat of economic growth and social development that should be underpinned by a world-class road infrastructure network.
SANRAL views the assertions made by AA as not only dogmatic, but also exceedingly distorted. Consequently, SANRAL maintains by its statement that all matters related to the development, modernisation and maintenance of South Africa’s road network is embodied within government’s overall policy and strategic framework, particularly the Department of Transport’s Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for South Africa.
It is worth mentioning that SANRAL today manages a national road network of about 21 500 km, which is expected to grow to 35 000km in the near future. This is in stark contrast to the road network of less than 530km that National Government was responsible for prior to 1994. About 15% of this road network is tolled road and 85% is non-tolled, funded from the national fiscus to the value of R11 billion. Consequently, the assertion made by AA that SANRAL only gives priority to tolled roads is factually incorrect.
Moreover, there has been an encouraging trend over the past years where provincial governments and municipalities have handed over some of their roads to SANRAL to manage. This does not only illustrate increased confidence in SANRAL as a reliable state agency, but also dispels AA’s claim that South Africa’s tolling-orientated road funding approach is accelerating the decay of non-tolled roads and that there is inadequate municipal road funding at provincial and local government level.
RESPONSE TO AA ARTICLE ON ROADS FUNDING AND BUILDING
It is simply not true that South Africa does not have a national roads policy. In South Africa, we recognise that transport is the heartbeat of economic growth and social development. We also acknowledge that this has to be underpinned by a world-class road infrastructure network.
The development and maintenance of this network is an integral part of the government’s massive infrastructure development programme. It also forms part of the Department of Transport’s Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for South Africa. Therefore, there is absolutely no way a person can make such a misleading assertion that South Africa does not have a roads policy. Everything related to the development, modernisation and maintenance of roads happens within the policy framework of government. The actual work might be done by government agencies such as SANRAL, but the overall policy and strategic framework is set by government.
It is also not true that the government is only giving priority to roads that can only be tolled so as to generate revenue from road users, at the expense of other roads. If you look at statistics, prior to 1994, the Department of Transport was responsible for a road network of less than 530km. In 1998 SANRAL was established to manage the national roads. Today, the agency is managing about 21 500 km of the national road network, and this is expected to grow to 35 000km in the near future.
Over the past 5 years, SANRAL has spent close to R62b for new works, rehabilitation, improvement and various maintenance cycles, which in real terms, is unmatched in the history of South Africa. Furthermore, SANRAL continues to work on its objectives of expanding the national road network; delivering safe, reliable and world-class network, seeking other methods of funding and improving the safety of road users. All these require massive cash injection.
It is also worth noting that about 85% of the national road network is non-tolled and therefore funded from the national fiscus to the value of R11b. Tolled roads only constitute about 15%. In addition, SANRAL has entered into private concessions with other companies to manage tolled roads on its behalf. SANRAL and these concessionaires raise money on capital markets to support development and maintenance of toll roads. The toll and non-toll roads are operated as separate portfolios, with no cross-subsidisation permitted.
Over the past few years we have seen a very interesting and encouraging trend – provinces handing over some of their roads to SANRAL to manage. SANRAL is well-positioned to manage such a huge road infrastructure, because of the human skills at its disposal as well as the agency’s technical know-how. It also shows increased confidence in SANRAL as a reliable state agency. However, most of the roads inherited were in a very bad state, and to bring these to acceptable and world-class conditions will take time and will require money.
Therefore 85% of SANRAL’s work is outside of e-tolling, and priority is not only given to tolled roads as the article alleges. SANRAL is working alongside the Department of Transport to implement the government’s top strategic priorities, of which road development, modernisation and improvement are an integral part. And all these happen within the country’s Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework.