Sanral says e-tolls revenue slumped by almost a third

A toll gantry on the N1 in Gauteng. Image: JMK (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Roads agency Sanral reported an almost one-third slump in revenue from e-tolls in Gauteng in the financial year to end-March 2021, despite government guarantees for the project to the tune of R2.7-billion.

The state-owned agency’s annual report, published last week, shows a revenue downturn of 31.3% compared to 2020 financial year as motorists continue to boycott the unpopular scheme. National government has dithered on what to do about non-payment, with transport minister Fikile Mbalula making repeated promises over a period of years that a decision is imminent only for nothing to transpire.

The decrease in revenue collection was worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, with many workers staying at home instead of commuting to and from the office. However, Sanral said the impact of the lockdown on the decline in revenue from e-tolls “could not be quantified”.

“This project is the only Sanral toll route that receives a government grant to offset the discounts on tariffs instituted in response to public opposition to tolling on Gauteng freeways. In 2020/2021, this grant amounted to R2.7-billion, which included R2.3-billion that the minister of transport approved as a transfer from non-toll to toll operations to reduce the expected shortfall in collection of revenue,” Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma said in the report.

“Road users’ ongoing refusal to pay e-toll fees on the GFIP (Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project) continues to have a negative financial impact on Sanral. Cabinet has yet to decide on the matter and we await direction in this regard,” Macozoma said.

‘Significant pressure’

The inability to resolve the e-tolls issue “continues to place significant pressure on Sanral’s balance sheet, compromising the ability to source funding and exacerbating uncertainty regarding the future of road funding,” the roads agency said. “As an offshoot of the GFIP challenge, the need for a new road infrastructure funding policy becomes more pronounced.”

As of 31 March 2021, Sanral said its total liabilities were R140.4-billion, from R130.6-billion a year earlier. Revenue was R12.6-billion, from R13.6-billion, while profit fell to R380.8-million from R1.3-billion in 2020.  – © 2021 NewsCentral Media