e-toll (in South Africa) consists of the electronic toll collection (ETC) processes employed by South Africa's roads agency Sanral on selected toll roads or toll lanes, subject to the Sanral Act of 1998. As of 2014, 19% of South Africa's national roads were toll roads. Sanral derives its income both from toll income and the national fiscus, while initial capital outlay for large projects are funded by open market bond issues.
The two main ETC methods are "Boom-down" electronic toll collection and open road tolling (ORT). The systems were designed to fund the R20 billion highway upgrade program (GFIP or Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project) which was implemented in 2007 and largely completed by April 2011. Open road tolling went live in Gauteng province on December 3, 2013, when the province had some 3.5 million registered vehicles. The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project led to a large decrease in traffic congestion when construction finished 2011-2012. Cape Town, for the first time in decades, became the most congested city in South Africa.
Vehicles are identified electronically without any cash transactions taking place on the road or highway. Vehicle identification is facilitated by an e-tag or a vehicle license plate number which is recorded by overhead cameras installed on gantries, and interpreted by computer. Electronic Tolling Collection (ETC), a subsidiary of Kapsch TrafficCom AG, is the contracted company that designed, built and is still operating the system, and in turn oversees the Transaction Clearing House (TCH) which oversees customer accounts, and the Violation Processing Centre (VPC) which will follow procedures against payment defaulters.
Initially, e-tagged road users received a 48 percent discount on tariffs and their monthly bill was capped. Owning an e-tag is however not compulsory, and consequently does not require any enforcement. Tariffs were increased in line with inflation, but the May 2015 amendments entailed significant reductions. Bills are mailed to road users who are not registered on the eTag system. During the review of the system and the subsequent consultation process, Sanral delayed in sending final demands to those who had not settled their accounts.
At conventional toll plazas, in lanes marked with the e-tag sign, overhead equipment register and verify the details of an e-tag in a slow-moving vehicle, and an amount is deducted from the road user's toll account, whereupon the boom lifts, or a light turns green.
The multi-lane free flow ETC system operates without any toll booths. Cameras and other sensors mounted on overhead gantries register either the e-tag or the vehicle license plate number, and an amount is deducted from an eTag registered road user's account. For verification each vehicle is photographed from above for length classification, with additional photos of the front and rear number plates. The 43 overhead gantries are spaced at about 10 km intervals on the N1, N3, N12 and R21 highways.
The system was widely denounced, and poor compliance affected Sanral's credit rating. A public coalition known as Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) launched initiatives to frustrate e-tolling's implementation, and some trade unions, law firms and churches joined the dissenting voices. Outa believed the system to be unlawful and approached the high court in 2012, which ruled that the GFIP was lawfully instituted, but denied Sanral a punitive costs order. In 2014 Outa launched the Rule of Law campaign and promised to challenge the legality of procedures against payment defaulters.
In the first six months the overdue toll fees of unregistered road users accrued to R1 billion, and the Gauteng government acknowledged the dissatisfaction of motorists. Its transport MEC, Ismail Vadi, however clarified that e-tolling in the province will remain, though a provincial fuel levy, provincial tax or shadow tolling may be considered as alternatives for future upgrade projects. Gauteng relied on significant fuel levy increases up to 2014.
In 2014 the Gauteng premier David Makhura established an advisory panel to review the socio-economic impact of e-tolling, but no review of the GFIP was anticipated. In the hearings opposition parties heaped scorn on the system, while the ruling party seemed divided on the matter.
The 2015 consultation process led by deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa concluded GFIP policy and financing matters. The government accepted the advisory panel's report which stated that the GFIP had benefited the province's economy by reducing travel times, improving fuel efficiency, reducing vehicle operating costs and by additional logistical efficiencies.
In November 2015, a news report indicated that the camera systems on the gantries did not have calibration certificates required by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications. This may have implications with regards to tolls which were charged using the number plate recognition system only (i.e. no transponder/e-tag).
In December 2014, the Transport Department published amendments to e-tolling legislation which extended e-tolling to motorists not licensed in South Africa, extended to 60 (rather than 32) days the period in which invoices must be sent, and provided for the keeping of a register of all e-toll transactions. Public transport remained exempt.
In May 2015 Cyril Ramaphosa announced a tariff decrease to 30c/km for light vehicles, capped at R225 per month (with or without an e-tag). Formerly e-tag holders paid 30c/km, capped at R450 per month, and those without an e-tag, 58c/km. Visitors to Gauteng would be exempt for the first 30 gantries passed per annum, whereafter normal fees would apply to these and additional gantries. For a limited period, e-toll fees in arrears would be payable at 70c/km rather than R1.74/km. Any e-toll fees would henceforth be payable at post offices or online, in addition to Sanral kiosks. Ramaphosa indicated that the e-toll system will be subsidized to an amount of R700 million per annum from the state's eventuality fund, to service a backlog which accrued to R197 billion by 2015. Accounts would be integrated with the eNaTIS system.