South Africa can’t cope with the number of cars on its roads: minister

A recent presentation by the Department of Transport suggests that the South African road network was not planned for the current traffic volumes, says minister Fikile Mbalula.

Responding in a recent written parliamentary Q&A, Mbalula said that a large volume of traffic has migrated from rail to road which has led to significantly increased road freight volumes.

“Households currently procure several vehicles as opposed to one vehicle per family as anticipated when the broader road network was planned. This, as well as the delay of timely routine maintenance activities, contribute to the state in which roads are in,” he said.

In a report published at the start of June, the department warned that traffic was on track to become ‘intolerable’ in parts of the country as congestion issues worsened.

In a February address, Mbalula said that 80% of South Africa’s roads have reached the end of their design life. “Amongst the many challenges we seek to tackle, we remain burdened with the intractable challenge of the road maintenance backlog,” he said.

“The total paved and gravelled network at the provincial level is 184,816 kilometres. 40% of this (provincial) network has reached the end of its design life, as approximately 80% of the (national) road network is now older than the 20-year design life.”

While the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is responsible for the primary network, provinces and municipalities are responsible for the secondary and tertiary networks, he said.

Data from analytics firm Inrix shows Cape Town remains the most congested city in the country, ranking 59th globally. Johannesburg was second, and 48th globally, with a -36% drop in traffic compared to pre-Covid-19 data. Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha), Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg round out the top five.

The data showed that Capetonians can expect to lose 59 hours in traffic annually, far more than in Joburg (48 hours), and Port Elizabeth (41 hours).

Read: Trucks are taking over South Africa’s roads – now government wants to introduce new rules

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South Africa can’t cope with the number of cars on its roads: minister