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Sanral tolls could kill your kids

2013-08-15 13:57

TAKING DEADLY SHORT-CUTS: E-tolling could lead to vehicles carrying hazardous materials to travel though suburbs to avoid cough-up at toll gates. Image: SAPA

Sanral's proposed E-Tolls could send heavy traffic thundering through the leafy suburbs to save money - and put your children and property in peril.

Tanker operators, desperate to avoid overheads, could seek short cuts while carrying hazardous waste or fuel and a crash that could at worst be on fire on a freeway, could be deadly in a suburban street. Those living in more affluent neighbourhoods with wider roads could be at most risk.


Defensive driving specialist and long-time tolls opponent Rob Handfield-Jones has raised concerns that Sanral's tolling of Gauteng freeways would increase the frequency of vehicles carrying hazardous materials (hazmats) through residential areas.

He believes operators will seek to avoid tolled roads, and recalled that the world's greatest hazmat vehicle disaster involved a tanker using an alternative route to avoid a toll road, reports Fleet magazine.


Handfield-Jones said: "The Los Alfaques disaster in Spain was an appalling tragedy in the late 1970's in which hundreds of people were burned to death. The driver of a tanker truck carrying flammable liquid had been instructed by his employer to use a rural route to avoid tolls.

“The driver lost control next to the Los Alfaques campsite on the east coast of Spain and crashed. The tanker ruptured, causing flammable gas to escape into the air and ignite. More than 200 people are known to have died, 200 more were severely injured.“

Handfield–Jones said if the disaster had occurred on the open motorway the death toll would likely have been a fraction of what it was.

He said South African transport operators had a history of using alternative routes to cut out tolling costs despite Sanral's stance that using better-quality toll roads was beneficial to operators because such roads caused less vehicle damage, Fleet reported.


Handfield–Jones added: "The problem is vehicle repair costs can be deferred but tolls can't, which is why some operators are happy to avoid tolled roads and run death-trap vehicles which are unlikely to be detected because of inadequate enforcement. Avoiding tolled routes is like overloading: it damages the vehicle but it increases cash flow and when times get tougher, cash flow is a very valuable thing to an operator.

"I absolutely believe that the Gauteng toll roads will drive hazmat vehicles into the suburbs."

He added that a minimal number of vehicles carrying hazardous cargoes in suburbs were acceptable for essential purposes, such as delivering fuel, but that further vehicle volumes would be a needless risk.

Handfield–Jones said: "Sanral will no doubt deny this but they can't deny the potential consequences of a tanker full of LPG or 30 tons of petrol catching fire in a residential area. Sasolburg nearly learned the hard way with its tanker crash and fire of 2011."

He believes that If hazmat vehicles were encouraged to remain on freeways, not only was the risk of crashing lower, but there was greater separation between them and the population, even in cases where freeways passed through built-up areas.

"Which is preferable: a burning tanker 100m away on a freeway or 10m from a block of flats? Tolling urban freeways is inevitably going to drive heavy vehicles and hazardous cargoes into our suburbs, and this is yet another reason that road building should be funded by an inexpensive fuel levy instead."


Citizens’ rights group, Outa, had a huge response from the public in the wake of its 2013 appeal for R1-million to enable it to take its e-tolling case to the Supreme Court of Appeal in September 2013. Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said: “The response was simply overwhelming. By close of business , 27 hours after our media conference, we had received more than R120 000 and things were looking really good. 

“Then, four hours later, as the overnight interbanking process updated around, I could hardly believe my eyes as the SMS notifications sent my phone ablaze with donations pouring in. By the time the notifications stopped, we had received around R540 000 from just 800 entries into Outa’s bank account!”


Duvenage said he was moved to see the number of cash donations made. 

He said: “People had actually taken the time to go into the bank and deposit cash amounts of R50, R100 and R200, in places like Mamelodi, Stilfontein, and other areas in the province.  I cannot begin to explain the emotion.

“After this response to our call for help, there is no doubt in my mind people throughout Gauteng and South Africa are strongly opposed to the ill-conceived plan to toll our freeways.  This is a resounding message to the authorities the people will no longer be trampled on and they will not tolerate their funds being wasted through expensive and inefficient systems on which they have not been consulted."

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