Cape Town threatens lawsuit over tolls

August 23, 2011

Outrage over proposed R10bn winelands toll road project in the Western Cape

THE City of Cape Town is threatening legal action if the state goes ahead with plans to develop the R10bn winelands toll road project in the Western Cape.

The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), which struggled this year to apply tolls to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project amid a public outcry about the high costs, has not yet begun construction on the winelands route.

Cape Town mayoral committee member Brett Herron said yesterday he had written to Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele to inform him about the city’s declaration of a dispute under the Intergovernmental Relations Act.

The project encompasses 105km of the N1 highway between Cape Town and Worcester and a 70km stretch of the N2 between Bot River and Cape Town. In 2003 the project received environmental authorisation and it was gazetted as a toll road in 2008.

Mr Ndebele had not received the letter yet, Department of Transport spokesman Logan Maistry said yesterday. “But I am sure that once it has been received there will be further engagement and consultation on this matter, including by the newly announced government commission on infrastructure,” he said.

Mr Herron said the letter was sent two weeks ago.

The city wants to meet Sanral next week to select an independent arbitrator for its dispute. The city alleges that Sanral’s processes, including its environmental impact assessment and its published intent to toll, were “flawed”.

Sanral did not address the city’s concerns during the public participation process, Mr Herron said. These included the socioeconomic effects of tolling . Motorists avoiding the tolls would use alternative routes belonging to the city, which “will impact on maintenance required”. “Sanral refused to discuss the City’s concerns…. Our letter to the minister is our last attempt at resolving this dispute before legal action,” Mr Herron said.

Toll roads “are always an emotional issue,” Sanral manager Alex van Niekerk said. “The bottom line is if you cannot come up with the money through taxes then you are either going to have (tolls) or not have the project.”


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