New research lays out South Africa’s road maintenance mess

South Africa is facing a severe roads maintenance backlog, with 77.5% of all gravel roads in the country currently in very poor condition.

This is according to Professor Don Ross and Mathew Townshend from the University of Cape Town who presented at the recent Southern African Transport Conference (SATC).

The researchers estimate that the country’s poor roads translate into a R243.7 billion functional maintenance backlog and a R281.2 billion technical needs maintenance backlog.

Their research also suggests that R115 billion is required to upgrade high volume gravel roads in South Africa, the majority of which are provincial – and that upgrading all gravel roads in South Africa would cost about R1.7 trillion.

“Were South Africa to try and cover these maintenance backlogs in a five-year period, it would take up the entire new economic stimulus plan presented by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Alternatively, it would require a 4% rise in the VAT rate or that an extra R3 per litre, be added to the national fuel levy.”

The researchers explained that the magnitude of these backlogs is going to be immensely difficult to eradicate completely, saying the country could possibly address them over the long term, given South Africa’s current low growth trajectory and emphasis on fiscal consolidation.

“Still, a very high degree of prioritisation is required within the road network maintenance space. Alternative road maintenance funding solutions are also being created.”

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New research lays out South Africa’s road maintenance mess