Transport minister decries state of SA's roads

Poorly maintained roads increased the risk of accidents, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said on Thursday during the launch of the Eastern Cape roads indaba (conference).

“South Africa has a poor road safety record by world standards. A poorly maintained road substantially increases the risk of road crashes,” said Ndebele in a speech prepared for delivery at the conference in East London.

Roads were unable to cope with the demand and were failing through lack of maintenance.

“The Eastern Cape was not an exception, and was also affected by issues of road infrastructure maintenance challenges,” he said.

In 1988 only 10% of the provincial road network was classified as being in a poor condition. This figure rose to 60% in 2008.

“In 1988, 70% of the provincial road network was measured to be good. In 2008 that figure dropped to 15%.”

Ndebele said that in 2008 the president of the South African Institute of Civil Engineers warned that the lack of upgrading would lead to the collapse of existing infrastructure system, including roads.

“The extent of low or non-existent staff such as civil engineers or civil engineering technicians at government level was cause for concern. We need a good asset management system because that is what informs where and what investments to make on our roads infrastructure.”

Provincial treasuries needed to earmark funds for asset management preservation in the country to deal with road maintenance.

The Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for South Africa (Rifsa) said provincial authorities had a large number of unskilled and inefficient staff structures and a lack of professional technical and managerial skills.

“According to the Rifsa document, professional posts were filled by persons without adequate roads experience and who are not registered professional engineers or technologists.”

Remedial action
The lack of strategic direction, decision making and development in transport infrastructure was costing the country billions of rand a year.

Ndebele said in order to manage the road network properly, South African roads needed enough technical professionals, strong leadership, the ability to make timely and wise decisions, and the ability to implement projects.

“The biggest challenge with roads is that by the time a problem is visible on the road surfaces, it means we are somewhat late with remedial action.

“On the other hand, the road might be deteriorating without showing on the surface. We often do not intervene.

“We intervene when it is too expensive to do so. This is often prompted by the outcry about potholes as we have recently witnessed,” said Ndebele. - Sapa

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