ABN – 29/10/2014 – The South African government will invest billions of rands in upgrading the country’s transport infrastructure.
The hope is that the investment will help to reduce road deaths and traffic congestion, in addition benefitting the country’s economy.
Transport infrastructure in South Africa has improved in the last decade – according to the Stats SA National Household Travel Survey 2013, “barriers to mobility in the last 10 years have been reduced”.
Part of this is due to car ownership rising from 22.9% in 2003 to 32.6% in 2013 – but transport minister Elizabeth Dipuo Peters wants to bring this number down.
She has expressed great concern over road safety in South Africa and appealed for more money to be funnelled into the rail network in order to keep people off the roads.
“The National Development Plan diagnostic report states that the commuter rail fleet needs to be renewed [as the commuter rail] provides the lowest-cost service to metropolitan areas and is safer than cars,” she said.
Under the government’s new plans, R51 billion will be spent on the commuter rail infrastructure, R14 billion on bus subsidies and R19.2 billion on upgrading the country’s road infrastructure.
Good public transport systems shape countries and their landscapes as well as encouraging economic growth and development.
The R51 billion committed to rail will be spent by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) on replacing existing rolling stock with 600 new commuter trains within the next 10 years.
In a recent interview with African Business Network, Prasa CEO Lucky Montana stressed the importance of rail in supporting a country’s economy and industries.
“The main role of the railway in any country is to support that nation’s economy as they support every industry, from mining to manufacturing to retail,” he said.
“I know that the impact that the new rail infrastructure will have on people will be immense. The travel times will be much shorter and a lot of positive things will come out of that.”
Prasa’s rolling stock replacement project will create 8,000 direct jobs and 33,000 indirect jobs in the broader transport sector.
In addition, a transport infrastructure agreement signed recently by Dipuo Peters and the Republic of Botswana will upgrade roads and bridges between the two countries.
The agreement follows the development of the Regional Action Agenda Report in 2007, wherein priority projects were identified that would promote regional integration and economic development.
The hope is that this network integration will reduce transport costs and delays in movements of goods due to the improved competitiveness between regions.
Yusuf Abramjee, head of News and Current Affairs at Primedia Broadcasting, recently compared France and South Africa’s public transport infrastructure.
“Countries such as France are years ahead of us,” he said.
“We need to continue to invest time, energy and money locally to bring our public transport network up to world standards.”