Supreme Court of Appeal sets aside Sanral documents ‘secrecy’ order

Supreme Court of Appeal sets aside Sanral documents ‘secrecy’ order

SHOULD the tolling of the N1 and N2 freeways in the Western Cape go ahead, residents and visitors to the province will pay toll tariffs that are nearly three times that of the e-toll tariffs that are being charged in Gauteng.

The Supreme Court of Appeal on Monday ruled in favour of the City of Cape Town by setting aside an order made by the Western Cape High Court in August last year concerning the so-called “secrecy application” of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral).

Last year the Western Cape High Court heard an in-camera application by the roads agency and Protea Parkway Consortium, which is the preferred bidder for the tolling project, to deny public access to supplementary documents on the controversial tolling project. The documents include information on tariffs and revenue to be generated by the operator.

The City of Cape Town on Monday revealed the cost of the proposed tolling project after the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment.

The city revealed, among other things, that:
• Protea Parkway Consortium’s anticipated toll revenue over the concession period (2010 values, excluding VAT) is in the region of R48bn.
• The decision to declare the Winelands toll roads was taken by Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, and not by the Sanral board, as is required by the Sanral Act.
• Sanral made a commitment to compensate the Protea Parkway Consortium for any shortfall in toll fees.

Cape Town mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron said on Monday that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) charges a toll tariff of 30c/km for light vehicles including VAT. The consortium’s proposed base toll tariff for light vehicles is 84.59c/km. The consortium’s rate, therefore, would require a 65% reduction to be equivalent to the GFIP rates.

The GFIP toll tariffs for light vehicles are capped at R450 per month; the consortium’s discount scheme does not make provision for any cap.

Mr Herron said that the city would file its replying papers to Sanral’s answering affidavit by April 25 2015.

“In these papers the city will fully disclose the calculations that are being investigated by nine experts, among these how much of every rand collected in toll fees will be spent on the toll project infrastructure and operations as opposed to road improvements, maintenance and operational work,” Mr Herron said.

Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

Cape Chamber of Commerce president Janine Myburgh said on Monday that the Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling was a “victory for transparency and the public of the Western Cape are indebted to the council for the determined way it perused this case in the public interest”.

Ms Myburgh said the chamber was shocked by the one-sided nature of the contract and Sanral’s commitment to compensate the Protea Parkway Consortium for any shortfall in toll fees.

“These secrets reveal that the whole public consultation process was a sham as no meaningful comment was possible without the knowledge we now have.

“We have pointed out before that not a single institution in the Western Cape supported the tolling of these roads but all objections were swept away allowing the views of the consortium and Sanral to prevail. Now we know that the consortium expected revenue of R48bn over the course of the concession,” said Ms Myburgh.

The Democratic Alliance-led City of Cape Town has proved to be a major stumbling block for Sanral’s bid to toll particular roads. The Congress of South African Trade Unions continues to oppose the toll road project in Gauteng.

In 2013 the Western Cape High Court granted the City of Cape Town an interim interdict preventing Sanral from going ahead with the toll project, including concluding any contract. The relief was granted pending the court’s review of Sanral’s decision to implement the project. The interdict remains in force until the finalisation of the city’s application to have Sanral’s declaration of the project and selection of preferred bidder Protea Parkways Consortium reviewed and set aside.