Some hope for South Africa’s crumbling roads

 ·18 Apr 2023

Similar to the failing national power infrastructure and the national logistics railways, South African roads are in disarray – however, investment to improve the situation is on the way.

Over the coming three years, the national budget has allocated R903 billion on ‘hard’ infrastructure development, with most of the focus being on strategic transport and logistics as well as water and sanitation.

Although this new investment is desperately needed, Justin Manson from vehicle tracking firm Webfleet said there also needs to be a significant overhaul of existing infrastructure to drastically improve motorists’ safety.

In the company’s latest Webfleet Road Safety Report – which surveyed a large sample of fleet operators – it found that poor road conditions cause 7% of accidents in the country.

“If we can bring this down to 2% or 3%, we would save thousands of lives each year,” said Manson.

Thousands of lives are lost on South Africa’s roads each year, with peak road volume periods, such as Easter, accounting for multiple casualties.

Over the past decade, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has recorded over 2,500 fatalities over Easter. In 2023, 225 people were killed in road accidents over the Easter weekend, up from 161 fatalities in 2022.

Manson said that more can and must be done to further improve road safety and decrease congestion. He said that the government, in partnership with the private sector, should bring Transnet and the country’s rail infrastructure at large back to fighting weight.

This would see fewer trucks on the roads as freight could be reliably switched to the rail networks, decreasing risks for motorists and truck drivers.

Another way to create safer roads would be to expand road capacity.

A welcome development in this regard was announced in early February this year when the South African National Road Agency (Sanral) awarded four major construction tenders for projects on the new N2 Wild Coast highway in the Eastern Cape and the N11 in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year.

Manson said that Sanral’s investment will create much-needed capacity in the country’s major coastal economies, boosting the construction industry and opening a key trade artery.

The roads agency said that the much shorter and quicker N2 route would dramatically reduce traffic carbon emissions, travel time and costs, as a result.

“The 1.5-to-3-hour reduction in travel time for light-to-heavy vehicles using the current N2 and R61 routes between KZN and EC will result in a projected time cost saving to the economy of R1.5 billion per annum,” Sanral said.

“The new route will also open access to the unique, but under-developed, Pondoland region boosting regional and local socio-economic development, particularly in tourism and agriculture.”

Manson said the 410-km N2 Wild Coast Highway is a key step in the government’s Strategic Infrastructure Projects SIP-3, South-Eastern Node and Corridor Development.

Read: Warning for road users in South Africa this long weekend

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