National roads in order - Ndebele

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cape Town - There is no maintenance backlog on South Africa's national road network, says Minister of Transport S'bu Ndebele.

The minister was on Monday responding to recent media reports about potholes and the state of the country's roads.

Briefing the media as part of government's Infrastructure Development Cluster, Ndebele said the system they had in place allowed government to respond to potholes on the national road network within 48 hours.

He said however that there was a need to replicate the maintenance system in use by the national road network for those roads under the responsibility of provinces and municipalities.

Deputy Minister of Transport Jeremy Cronin said the problems with road maintenance that did occur took place at provincial and municipal level as a result of a lack of funding.

Cronin said the national road network was well looked after, under the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), with over 16 000km of road under its management.

He said provinces had their own agencies but these were often not as effective as Sanral.

The answer, he believed, was to get more funding, adding that when the World Cup was over, government would be able to shift its focus on public transport and infrastructure spend away from host cities and to smaller towns.

He said the department was also busy discussing with the National Treasury the possibility of ring-fencing funding for roads and other infrastructure funding, as this money was often spent on unrelated items such as salaries.

Government was also looking at revitalising the rail network to get more freight off roads and onto trains to slow the damage done to roads by heavy trucks, said Cronin.

Together with its transport utility, Transnet, the government is looking at introducing private sector players to operate and invest in rail, while the transport utility invested in railway lines.

Ndebele said strides had been made towards improved funding of roads through the 'user pays' principle which had resulted in an additional R9.7 billion collected and spent on road maintenance.

He said government had also increased the number of weighbridges on the country's busiest roads, while an industry initiative, the Road Traffic Management system helped to tackle overloading on mainly secondary roads.