The Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape recently made headlines after it awarded tenders to fix a 6.7 km road at a cost of R95 million.
While these costs seem high – the opposition Democratic Alliance said the national norm is closer to R7 million per kilometre – South Africans may not be aware of just how expensive fixing roads can be.
“It sounds like a lot of money but typically a road will consist of between three and six layers, with the cost per square metre probably being around R200 – R300 for a very cheap road,” Andrew Laatz, a road engineer at HHO Consulting Engineers told radio station 702.
This can rise to as much as R2,000 – R3,000 per square metre on higher standard roads which have more layers and are more robust, he said.
“R1 million per kilometre would be a fairly simple repair – including it’s a whole new surfacing layer with a repair cost to repair that layer. That would be quite cheap. For a reasonable upgrade to a gravel road you could spend up to R4 million – R5 million per kilometre.”
This is just the simple material cost of upgrading the road, and it does not account for labour costs, assessments, designs, tenders and other fees which can be significant additional costs.
He added that it’s quite conceivable that a 6.7 km road could cost close to R95 million.
“That sounds like fairly middle to upmarket fee – it’s not just a repair but a decent upgrade, so it’s definitely not out of the ballpark. You can spend in certain local conditions over a R1 billion for 20 kilometres.”
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has previously indicated that the funding required to sustain the South African road network through pothole repairs is estimated at R700 to R1,500/per square meter.
However, Mbalula said that completely removing potholes in the country would be an almost impossible task. “It is difficult to eradicate potholes on the road network as the emergence of new potholes depends entirely on the extent and nature of rainfall in that month or year,” he said in a parliamentary Q&A in April.
“It is important to note that the road maintenance funding allocated from the national fiscus is not sufficient to maintain the road network in the three spheres of government as there are competing needs to all sectors.”
Mbalula said that most of the country’s provincial road network has reached its design life of 25 years and were never designed for the current increased traffic volumes and traffic configuration.
“With that said, my department ensures that roads are properly maintained through the Provincial Road Maintenance Grant (PRMG).
“The PRMG is ringfenced for the maintenance of the Provincial Strategic Road Network including rehabilitation, strengthening of paved roads, re-gravelling, gravel road blading and blacktop patching.”
Mbalula said that the PRMG sets aside just over R12 billion per annum to all provinces.