Sanral Says Road-Toll Collections Rising as Government Steps in

Revenue from electronic road tolls in South Africa’s richest province jumped to an eight-month high in May after the government announced stricter measures to ensure payment from motorists.

The state-owned South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd., known as Sanral, collected about 76 million rand ($6.2 million) from the system in Gauteng province last month, 25 percent more than in April, according to data provided by the agency. Collections had peaked at 120 million rand in June 2014, the data show, before the provincial government announced a review of the system, causing some road users to delay payment, Chief Executive Officer Nazir Alli said in an interview on Wednesday.

The e-tolls were introduced on roads around South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria, in December 2013 after a delay of more than two years, partly caused by opposition from labor unions and motorist groups. Critics say the tolls of as much as 225 rand per month for light vehicles are unaffordable and should be paid for out of taxes, and many drivers still refuse to settle their bills.

The levies are to help pay for a 20 billion-rand upgrade of 201 kilometers (125 miles) of highways completed before the 2010 soccer World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa.

The rise in toll revenues follows a May 20 announcement by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that drivers won’t be able to renew car registrations unless their bills are paid, bringing “political certainty” to the project, Alli said at Bloomberg’s offices in Johannesburg. The government also cut the maximum amount drivers can be liable to pay per month.

Corporate Payments

Since Ramaphosa’s announcement, “there’s a couple of corporates that came and made lump sum payments,” Sanral’s Chief Financial Officer Inge Mulder said in the same interview. In addition, the government promised Sanral a top-up payment of as much as 700 million rand.

Sanral is seeking to collect 270 million rand per month from the Gauteng tolls, Mulder said. The target could be achieved with a compliance rate of 70 percent, she said. The tolls are operated by Electronic Toll Collection (Pty) Ltd., which is controlled by Kapsch TrafficCom AG, an Austrian maker of road-toll systems.

The agency owes 35.5 billion rand in outstanding bonds and loans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The 76 million rand of collections in May is the highest since September, when Sanral collected 88 million rand, Mulder’s data showed.

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