SA's transport gets multibillion rand boost

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cape Town - Transport infrastructure over the next two years is guaranteed to radically change the way South Africans travel - thanks to a multi-billion rand boost by government. 

Amounting to R66 billion over the next year, and rising to R80 billion by 2013/14, the improvements are set to also create numerous jobs and tourism opportunities. 

The improvements will be spread across the country with both urban and rural parts set to benefit. This comes as current transport infrastructure developments have been recognised as being world-class quality.

"Given the deep-seated historical legacy of apartheid-inspired geographical marginalisation of the majority of South Africans, and decades of underinvestment in public transport, government is going all out to ensure safe, efficient, reliable and affordable public transport. 

"Over the past few years, a major capital injection into transport-related infrastructure and operations has begun to produce some important results," said Minister of Transport Sibusiso Ndebele.

The second report card on infrastructure released yesterday by the South African Association of Civil Engineering states that the country's best performing infrastructure was its aviation infrastructure, which was awarded the report's only A. 

According to the report, South Africa's national road network was "good to excellent", and the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) and Ports have performed exceptionally well. 

Last week, the OR Tambo International Airport was named the best airport in Africa, and was also in the top three most-improved airports worldwide at the World Airport Awards for 2010/11 held in Denmark.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has been described as far better than that of New York by Walter Hook, Head of the Institute for Transportation and Development Planning in New York City, during a tour of Rea Vaya BRT facilities earlier this year.

Yesterday, Ndebele announced a R97 billion rail upgrade programme, which will be rolled out over 18 years.

Additional allocations over the MTEF include R2.5 billion to municipalities for public transport systems and infrastructure, as well as additional funds for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, for replacing signaling infrastructure and refurbishing rail coaches. 

A total of R30.2 billion will be spent improving the passenger rail system over the next three years. During June, operation of the Gautrain from Pretoria to Johannesburg will optimise integration and ensure convenient and safe transfers between the Gautrain and other public transport modes. 

Since 1994, billions of rands have also been spent on the improvement of rural road infrastructure. 

For the first time this year, the national Department of Transport has secured dedicated funding for road maintenance with the S'hamba Sonke (walking together) programme being rolled out in a bid to address road maintenance on secondary roads and rural roads, and particularly potholes. 

This is a new and innovative nationwide programme to focus on the maintenance of secondary road infrastructure using labour-intensive methods of construction and maintenance.

A total of R6.4 billion has been set aside in 2011/12, R7.5bn in 2012/13 and R8.2bn for 2013/14, amounting to a total of R22.3 billion in the medium-term. The programme will create new opportunities for emerging contractors and thousands of jobs across the country. This is over and above provincial and municipal funding for rural road infrastructure.

"Public transport formed the backbone of transport plans for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and government invested billions of rands to ensure a safe, efficient and reliable public transportation system.

"This investment included customer-focused and world class airports, upgraded train stations and refurbished coaches to luxury buses and integrated rapid public transport networks such as the bus rapid transit system. 

"The Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks (IRPTNs) developed during the 2010 FIFA World Cup are accelerating improvements in public transport in South Africa. South Africa's Public Transport Strategy (PTS), which comprises a multi-billion rand transport infrastructure plan, is set to entirely reshape public transport travel in South Africa," Ndebele said. - BuaNews