BAKWENA – ELECTRONIC TOLLING PIONEERS IN SOUTH AFRICA
The Bakwena Platinum Toll Highway consists of a 95-kilometre section of the N1 running from Pretoria northwards to the town of Bela-Bela (Warmbaths) and a 290-kilometre section of the N4 running from Pretoria westwards to the Botswana border. The Toll Road has some of the busiest plazas in the country, and electronic transponders – e-tags – are no strangers to the concessionaire, Bakwena Platinum Corridor Concessionaire (Pty)Ltd, or to its road-users. The company is the only Toll Road employing e-tags, an electronic tolling system which it has been using successfully since March, 2002 .
With the proposed introduction by the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) of open road tolls (ORT) potentially set to be in operation within the next eighteen months, employing an electronic tolling system, the pioneering experience of Bakwena offers a ‘preview’ of how electronic tolling systems work. “Over the seven years of e-tag operation, our experience has been that it facilitates a smoother and more efficient passage for our road-users, and reduces congestion”, says the company’s CEO, Graeme Blewitt.
The company justifiably considers itself the leader in South Africa with regards to electronic tolling, and Blewitt says the e-tag system also has other advantages, quoting the example of providing free e-tags to emergency services vehicles that respond to accidents along the Bakwena N1N4 Toll Highway, enabling over 450 emergency services vehicles to travel along the toll road at no cost, and get to the scene of accidents unimpeded and in the shortest possible time. “It is the e-tag that enables this – and it is a contribution towards saving lives that we are proud to make.” Blewitt says.
Other operational points made by Blewitt include the fact that the combination of electronic tolling and toll plaza lane barriers ensures that all road users pay their tolls, as the barriers will not allow thoroughfare if the electronic transaction fails: the e-tag holder would then be required to reverse and pass through a manual gate paying with cash, garage card or credit card in order to use the road. This provides a great sense of comfort to all the users of the road, and this is why Bakwena will continue to operate using a barriered system for the foreseeable future, he says, even though open road tolling will become more popular and more widely used in the future. Our toll plazas will still be in operation for some time to come and the infrastructure to manage the booms, and the multiple methods of fee collection – including Bakwena’s e-tags – will still apply.