Transport vital for SA’s growth

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

By Noluthando Mkize

The transport sector is at the heart of the country’s development and it is Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters’ duty to ensure that it accommodates everyone.

“I have the duty of ensuring that South Africans have safe, reliable, affordable and convenient public transport,” says the Minister.

She points out that her department’s role has a bearing on almost every aspect of people’s daily lives.

“People need transport and roads to go to work, businesses, church, parties, holidays, shops and to socialise. The department has a humongous task of ensuring that the infrastructure is maintained, upgraded and built in addition to providing a safe, reliable, affordable and convenient transport.”

Speaking about Transport Month, which is commemorated in October, Minister Peters says the department intends showcasing transport infrastructure projects, promoting the use of public transport and advancing the road safety initiatives.

This year’s Transport Month theme is “Together we Move South Africa Forward”.

“Government is investing in the transport sector which is part of the country’s Nine-Point Plan to stimulate development and create jobs. Our public transport investments are part of building and operating an integrated public transport network across the country.”

She adds that the country’s investment in transport will help grow the economy and address the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

“Our investments in transport are positioning the country as an attractive investment destination.”

Overhauling the rail sector

Minister Peters says her department is supporting the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to ensure that passenger rail plays a leading role in the transport system.

“The Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme is our big programme currently. It is aimed at supporting PRASA’s effort to position passenger rail as a backbone of South Africa’s transport system.”

It is through this programme that the Department of Transport wants to overhaul the country’s rail sector.

The department has already invested R172 billion in this programme and as a result, five new modern passenger trains have already been delivered. The sod turning for the factory that will build new trains locally took place in Ekurhuleni in March.

The factory will ensure that 65 percent of the trains used in the country are built locally. The rolling stock programme will create about 65 000 jobs.

“The local manufacture of new trains will see the skilling of approximately 19 527 individuals over the next 10 years,” she adds.

These will include artisans, engineers, train drives, designers and technicians.

The Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme forms part of the modernisation programme that includes, among others, station and depot modernisation, signalling and telecommunications.

“Government has allocated a total of R46.6 billion over the next years for this programme.”

Currently, trains are being used by the poor because they are the most affordable mode of transport, the Minister points out.

“To some it is the only means of transport that they have that can take them to work so that they can earn a living and provide for their families. An example of this is that in 2014/15, PRASA transported two million passengers and covered 55 million passenger trips.”

Major infrastructure programmes

One of the major infrastructure programmes that the department is working on is the Moloto Development Corridor, which has a road and rail component.

“The Moloto Road is notoriously known as the road of death and we are going to transform it into a road of hope. This road is known for crashes, bus accidents, injuries and death. It is used by almost 150 000 commuters daily. It has not been upgraded for many years,” says the Minister.

According to statistics, between January 2012 and May 2014, there were 489 crashes on Moloto Road, which runs through Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, that resulted in 158 deaths and 594 serious injuries.

The Moloto Road Development Corridor project will also include an investment in passenger rail to offer commuters a safer, faster and more accessible connection between Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

“PRASA and China Communication Construction Company Limited have entered into a memorandum of understanding to explore areas of possible cooperation on the planning and implementation of the Moloto Rail Corridor Initiative. The refurbishment of the road will take five years to complete at a cost of about R4.5 billion and 5 500 jobs will be created,” says Minister Peters.

Another major project is the Eastern Cape Works and Wild Coast Project. In the Eastern Cape, South African National Road Agency Limited (SANRAL) has completed road infrastructure to the value of about R1.4 billion.

SANRAL is now busy appointing service providers for the construction of two new mega-bridges that will bring communities closer to each other, as well as other urban centres such as Mthatha, she adds.

“The mega-bridges are part of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road project that will include nine major bridges, three interchange bridges and new roads.”

In addition, work is currently taking place on the N3 route, which is the busiest road freight corridor in South Africa.

“The work is estimated to cost about R8.3 billion and the upgrading of the N3 is important if one of government’s strategic integrated projects linking the Port of Durban with Gauteng is to succeed.”

Maritime leads in economic development

The maritime industry is important to South Africa’s economic development as it supports Operation Phakisa which promotes the flourishing oceans economy, says the Minister.

Operation Phakisa is aimed at fast-tracking service delivery in various sectors of the economy and is a collaboration of the public and private sectors, academia and civil society.

The country’s oceans have the potential to contribute up to R177 billion to the gross domestic product and create up to one million jobs by 2033.

“Government has unlocked investments amounting to about R17 billion in the oceans economy through Operation Phakisa.

“Since the inception of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy, over 4 500 jobs have been created in the various sectors,” she adds.

Other developments in the maritime industry include the establishment of the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) through collaboration between the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

SAIMI is a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder institute that will facilitate the development of a skills and knowledge base required to ensure the success of maritime economic development initiatives such as the oceans economy.

“SAMSA in partnership with Department of Higher Education and Training implemented a National Cadetship Programme which was funded by SAMSA and some elements of it were funded by the National Skills Fund,” she says.

Transforming airports

The Airports Company of South Africa’s (ACSA) airports are all becoming vital centres and catalysts for economic growth, as well as access hubs for the rest of the world, says Minister Peters.

Airports are being transformed into multi-faceted, world-class, global gateways for travel, trade and commerce. As a result, business opportunities abound, particularly in property, retail and advertising, she adds.

The department wants to introduce the ‘aerotropolis’ concept, whereby a range of manufacturing, logistics and commercial facilities, complemented by hotels, retail outlets, entertainment complexes and offices are clustered around airports to accelerate the core role of our airports.

“This will be done particularly for the King Shaka International Airport and its associated Dube Trade Port and the drive for an aerotropolis surrounding OR Tambo International, which is directed by Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.

“This will ensure that our airports further add towards their aeronautical income derived from regulated tariffs as well as for their non-aeronautical revenue which includes ACSA’s expansion of its international operations.”

365-day Road Safety Programme

The Minister says the department, with all its roads agencies, is in the process of developing a 365-day Road Safety Programme that will be sustainable and run consistently.

The emphasis of the 365-day programme is expected to address various road user groups, ranging from pedestrians, passengers, scholar groups and drivers.

To help ensure the country’s roads are safer, the department has formed partnerships with key stakeholders such as faith-based organisations, youth, non-governmental organisation, community structures and media platforms.

In addition, a Ministerial Task Team consisting of officials from the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Road Traffic Management Corporation has been established.

It will consider the possibility of introducing a minimum sentence for extremely serious traffic violations such as excessive speeding, reckless and negligent driving and driving under the influence of alcohol, explains the Minister.

“This is intended to bring about tough consequences for traffic offences and to remove the culture of impunity that currently prevails on the roads. These measures will strengthen the implementation of the new road safety strategy, ensure consistency of law enforcement and justice for innocent victims of reckless and negligent drivers,” she adds. This feature first appeared in the October issue of the Public Sector Manager. 

 

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