I was trolling through my RSS feeds this morning, one of which is News24 (a South African internet news service) and was disturbed by a report titled ‘Toll Roads Planned Across the Country‘!
The plan is to duplicate the Gauteng pay-per-kilometer road toll system, currently being implemented on a busy commuter route, and use it nationwide to fill the R149 billion hole (no pun intended) in the road maintenance fund. Once again hard working South Africans are being asked to pay for the inept and criminal administration by our elected officials.
This plan could have serious implications for the residents of the Cape Point Peninsula. Just think how easy it would be to cut us off from the rest of Cape Town, making it virtually impossible to make it into to Town without paying for it. Imagine tolls being added to the M3 and M5. Many residents of the far south already pay dearly for working in town through heavy levies on fuel, a further tax on travel could place many in a position of paying to work.
I have long bemoaned the idea of driving into Cape Town everyday- the impact on the environment is immense, but you also have to be realistic. At present the public transport into town is a train service that is already creaking at the seams, and if you live towards the Atlantic side of the peninsula you will have to get to a train station first (would you want to trust your car on Fish Hoek beach all day?) Also, the train is all well and good if you work in the center of town, or close to a station, if not, you have an even worse time of it at the other end.
If you are fortunate to live within an easy walk of a train station, and your work place is close at the other end to the main line then there is no better way to get to work. It is cheaper, quicker and easier than driving, even without the addition of tolls, however, for most people it is not an option, and a lot commutors are married to their cars.
It is also a fact that if all the residents who drive into town suddenly decided to leave their cars at home and take the train that the infrastructure couldn’t handle it. The rush hour trains are already full, especially after visiting Retreat station: having done the journey I hate to think what it would be like if the train was already full before it reached Steenberg.
If you live and work in the far south you may be thinking that the average rich city goer can afford to fork out another few rand to drive to work- they seem to have it, big houses, fancy four by fours that chew petrol faster than it can be pored in. Firstly, not all commutors are well off, secondly, an increase in the cost of getting to work of a few cents a kilometer could have devastating consequences for the economy of the Cape Peninsula.
Firstly, the journey is already horrible- stuck in traffic, costing a fortune in fuel- a road levy could be the final nail in the coffin that makes the commuter think, “Why do I bother, it isn’t that nice to live so far away, why not move closer and spend the weekends up the cost?” This would lead to a lowering in house prices and less money in the local economy. Imagine if you are a local shop owner, with a burden of debt on your personal property, taken out to finance the establishment of your business. Suddenly you have a struggling business and negative equity, all for the sake of a few cents on a road toll!
Secondly, tours for tourists will increase in price, making this a less attractive place for them to visit, again negatively impacting the local economy.
Thirdly, how much traffic will be pushed off the main roads onto the smaller roads? It is already very difficult to get around some areas, imagine if the traffic is increased suddenly just because people are avoiding the toll charges.
There will be those of you who believe that Cape Town doesn’t need toll roads because of all the provinces the Western Cape actually has a working road management plan. Don’t let this fool you for a second, this is a Pandora’s box of tax raising and any form of government will jump at the chance of getting more money in the coffers, because they understand very well that we have no alternative but to pay and will therefore justify the charges in some way. Be prepared, it is on the way!