MPs slam 2010 transport plans

Parliament’s transport portfolio committee has tabled a scathing report on the country’s transport preparedness to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The report, circulated in Parliament on Friday, says that at present there is only one senior official, a chief director, who is working full time on 2010 in the Department of Transport. He is assisted by a number of other officials, and reports to an acting deputy director, but all of these people have many other responsibilities.

“The situation should be compared with Germany’s World Cup preparations,” the committee report says, “where, the committee has been told, the local organising committee had a team of 80 full-time transport specialists. The committee understands that a similar-sized team of transport experts is working full-time on London’s 2012 Olympic preparations.”

Pointing out that the Cabinet has identified public transport as the primary legacy that should be derived from South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup, the committee adds that planning and the assurance of effective funding for the public-transport systems needs to be more or less completed already, and full-scale implementation needs to be under way in the coming months, if this is not already the case.

It is clear from their report that in many cases this plainly not the case.

The report to Parliament singles out the cities of Polokwane, Rustenburg and Mbombela for particular criticism.

The committee is very concerned with what they found in Polokwane, the report says. “The city does not appear to have any serious 2010 public-transport planning in place. In fact, it has not even completed its regular integrated transport plan, as is required by the National Land Transport Transitional Act.”

The committee is equally unimpressed with the state of preparedness and planning in Rustenburg. “There is absolutely no evidence of any attempt to lay the ground for an effective post-2010 public-transport legacy. 2010 transport planning seems to be almost exclusively focused on the access roads to the stadium. Nothing appears to be planned for the CBD, except the widening of one intersection.”

The report on Rustenburg continues: “No mention was made of work with or transformation of the existing bus and taxi operations. One official told the committee that they “think” they might upgrade one taxi rank.

“The committee obviously strongly recommends that the Department of Transport devotes focused attention to the situation in Rustenburg as a matter of priority.”

In Mbombela, the committee says the situation is just as bad, but there is one important difference. The officials in Mbombela are not defensive and readily admit that they need considerable assistance with transport and spatial planning and project management.

The committee, chaired by the leading Communist MP Jeremy Cronin, says that in some of the major cities, including Johannesburg, eThekwini, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay, there are clearly competent transport teams in place, most planning is effectively completed and implementation of the main 2010 projects and systems is poised for roll-out. However, in each of these cities there are challenges and frustrations that need to be addressed.

Each of the cities requires dedicated assistance, mostly in the area of organisation, business and finance planning, regulation and operationalising of the mass public-transport network systems that they are proposing, the committee says. “This may well require importing some experienced international public-transport experts, as there is, as far as we know, very little expertise within our country in these areas.”

In other host cities with the possible exception of Mangaung, the committee says it is probably already too late to attempt to roll out a catalysing mass public-transport network as a 2010 legacy.

“In these cities a more modest focus on some infrastructure legacy and, above all, a narrower focus on transport preparations for 2010 itself may be the key priority challenge,” the report concludes.—I-Net Bridge

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