Address at the National Council of Provinces on Transport Month debate by Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, Minister of Transport
26 Oct 2010
Members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP)
Ladies and gentlemen
I must start by expressing my sincere sympathy and condolences to the family and relatives of the 19 people who were killed last Saturday, 23 October in a head on collision between a mini-bus taxi and a bakkie at Franklin near Kokstad in KwaZulu-Natal and to the family of the 15-year old Mpho Nyembe from Alexandra in Johannesburg, who was killed in a senseless school boy prank on Friday, 22 October. We wish those injured a speedy recovery.
Eastern Cape roadblock
A few weeks ago we stopped 750 vehicles at a road block in the main road entering East London in the Eastern Cape. Of those 750 vehicles, 438 were found to be drunk drivers, not wearing seatbelts, driving stolen vehicles, unlicensed drivers and taxis without the relevant permits.
If this is the picture in just one province, we have a serious problem. It is why we experience so many accidents and deaths on our roads. The roadblocks we are manning are meant to make our roads safer.
Since 1 October 2010 to date more than 914 000 vehicles and drivers have been stopped and checked through the new Traffic National Rolling Enforcement Plan (NREP). By the end of this week, we will have exceeded our target of one million vehicles per month and we are not going to stop! We are going to intensify the new NREP until South Africans start to behave!
Our agency, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), has a Multi-media Project which we are rolling out within some schools in South Africa. It is the same Multi-media project which we intend expanding. We intend having more Road Safety lessons within it, targeting Grade 11 and 12 learners in preparation for their driver learner’s licence.
Already we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Basic Education around this matter. We have already started the process of resuscitating the Junior Traffic Training Centres as well as allowing children to have practical exposure on Road Safety.
Road Safety Lessons would be taught under life Skills within all schools. We are in the process of developing learning materials and working with some private sector companies in putting together different types of modules. This will assist our efforts to reduce road traffic crashes.
In our budget vote this year, we articulated the importance of the implementation of effective and sustainable road and rail infrastructure networks and services.
While the role of transport in our economy is well-documented, our people are aware of the importance of transport from their everyday experiences as they go to work, to school, to hospitals and to visit friends and relatives. The presence or absence of an efficient public transport system can be a matter of life and death to a terminally ill person in the rural parts of our country. The same could be said of a hungry person, of a person seeking a job in order to escape the entrapment of poverty. Transport affects all the spheres of our development and human endeavours.
As government, we must show we care about the huge impact that transport has on the lives of our people as well as on our economic growth and development. Our ability to spearhead growth and development would therefore be partly measured by our success or failure to provide a transport system consistent with the demands of our economy.
We cannot talk about public transport and economic development without a brief reference to what has located public transport at the centre of our economic development. For this reason, I want to make a brief reference to the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS 2003). According to the Survey:
- 38 million citizens live in households with no access to a car.
- 14 million learners walk to school.
- 13.7 million citizens use public transport as least once a week.
- 7 million workers and learners use public transport.
Furthermore, there are 10 million vehicles but only seven million licensed drivers in South Africa. If we have 7 million licensed drivers, the logical question we must ask is who then drives the other three million vehicles. It is quite clear, however, that despite the growth in motor vehicle use, public transport and walking are still the predominant “lifeline” forms of mobility for the vast majority of South Africans in order to access work, schools, and services.
Public transport strategy and plan
Honourable members, it is against this backdrop that in March 2007, Cabinet approved the Public Transport Strategy and Action Plan. This was in order to create a lasting legacy of public transportation in South Africa.
The strategy consists of:
- Upgraded modal fleet, facilities, stops and stations.
- Extended hours of operation to between 16 to 24 hours.
- Peak frequencies of five to 10 minutes, off frequencies of between 10 to 30 minutes and hourly night service.
- Target 85 percent of all residents in urban areas to be within one kilometre of Rapid Public Transport Network by 2020.
- Safe and secure operation monitoring by Intelligent Transport System Control Centres.
- Electronic fare integration and single ticketing when making transfers.
- Integrated feeder service including walking, cycling and taxi networks.
- Integration with metered taxi services and long distance intercity services.
- Car competitive public transport option which enable strict peak period car use management.
These plans, ladies and gentlemen, require efficient planning, skilled manpower and funding mechanisms. This approach comprises the Metrorail Rail Priority Corridors, the Gauteng Rapid Rail Link as well as Bus Rapid Transit Corridors. It also includes the recapitalised and regulated taxi services including mini and midi-bus taxis as well as metered taxis. The three spheres of government are already working closely together to ensure the speedy implementation of this plan.
The BRT buses are already operating in the City of Joburg and Cape Town. My Department has advanced with BRT plans with metropolitan cities and related provinces including Mangaung, Polokwane, Rustenburg, Mbombela and the Buffalo City municipalities.
National Road Passenger Plan
Honourable members, in line with our public transport strategy and plan, we also had to interrogate the machinery of our road-based public transport in order to develop a National Passenger Road Plan. This plan is now serving as our framework for the integration of the road-based public transport system.
Most importantly, it serves as a guide in transforming the subsidised commuter bus regime into an integrated road based public transport system. In line with the rollout of the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Service Networks, there is a need to not only link the public transport networks to major long distance stations and terminals but also to implement a phased strategy of upgrading and expanding long distance coach and rail services.
By 2020 a planned long distance integrated network will be phased along with similar lines as the local network. This will include publicly planned routes, service quality and schedules, public management of facilities, stations and terminals; and contracting current informal operators to provide a higher quality scheduled service.
Chairperson, apartheid spatial distance must become a thing of the past in a democratic South Africa. In this regard, our public transport strategy also stresses greater emphasis on the improvement of passenger rail services, which are both short-and-long distance services.
Our plan is centred on reducing the kilometre distance to time or travelling distance. The journey from Johannesburg to Durban should not be measured in terms of kilometers anymore. It takes one hour by air and six hours by car and 12 hours by train to travel from Johannesburg to Durban. It takes 2 hours by air and almost 13 hours by car and almost 20 hours by train from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Yet using the EuroStar it takes about 2hours from London to Paris and Brussels. The distance of over 2000km from Beijing to Shanghai that is scheduled for completion by 2012, will take about three hours by high speed train. Chairperson, there was a time when it was said with some pride that there is no hurry in Africa. There was a time when we lived in splendid isolation from the rest of the world.
If we persist with the prevailing notion that there is no hurry in Africa then the world is going to pass us by. If doing business, moving people and goods in South Africa takes forever, the world is going to pass us by.
Throughout the world today people and goods move with speed, the slow strive to become faster, the faster strive to be faster still yet our long distance rail in South Africa has stood still. Our National Transport Master Plan should therefore move from being a plan to an operation. Our emphasis on passenger rail services is premised on the fact that this is a prime mass mover of our people, particularly workers who commute daily between areas of work and their residential areas. It makes sense therefore that an efficient rail system would most massively assist in the resolution of our public transport problems.
Cabinet has also approved the National Passenger Rail Plan which is our initiative to secure the future of commuter rail by applying the priority corridor strategy to the rail network throughout the country. The intention is to extend rail service to areas previously not covered and to improve the efficiency of the existing passenger rail lines.
Here we have funding challenges for refurbishment of rolling stock and purchasing of new coaches. We also have challenges of old rail networks. A committed funding of R16billion to improve our passenger rail system in the next three years could ease the situation, but additional funds are required. A significant portion of this fund has been committed by PRASA to upgrade more than 2 000 of its 4 600 coaches around the country. The delivery of coaches is aimed at improving train availability nationally to 96 percent of the current fleet by the end of this year.
In the past four years, as a department, we had a series of challenges with regard to rail security. Scenes of vandalism, cable theft and vandalism of property featured prominently on our rail platforms. Special attention has been given to improve security measures within the railway environment. This strategy includes a cooperative agreement with the South African Police to invest in security related infrastructure required for the establishment and rollout of a dedicated railway police unit. To date, the construction of police stations at Cape Town, Durban, Retreat, Bellville and Phillipi Stations has been completed.
With the reintroduction of the railway police, we have seen a significant drop in crime within our trains as well as in our train stations. Crime has been cut down by more than 38 percent to date.
Among our key successes the Rail Police made more than 28 000 arrests, of which more than 9 000 were serious crimes. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has deployed 5 000 members around the country in our rail environment.
Road Infrastructure: Construction and Maintenance
Chairperson, the move to rail does not mean we must abandon our road network. We are merely seeking to implement the appropriate balance of people and goods on either road or rail. In this regard the Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for South Africa (RIFSA) identified six critical areas for intervention if our roads are to serve as catalysts for required development. There is still a need for effective institutional and coordination arrangements for road delivery given the Constitutional assignment of functions for roads.
There is one Minister of Transport, nine provincial MECs, and Municipal Mayors who each have responsibility for sections of the 750 000 kilometres of our country’s road network. Yet South Africans do not care whether a road in rural areas is owned and maintained by the local authority, they want the road to provide them with access to social and economic amenities and also improve their mobility. We have the capacity in the developed authorities coupled with limited or no capacity at developing authority level. The other area, which is as critical, is the development and maintenance of information and decision support systems.
Information about the state of the road is very important in determining what maintenance works is required and when this should be done. To make a quick illustration, we know that about 80% of our road network is now older than the 20 year design life. This is based on information from 64% of the roads, primarily national, provincial and some cities. Only 4% of municipal road information was obtainable in this exercise.
The biggest challenge with our roads is that by the time a problem is visible on the surface, it means we are somewhat late with remedial action. On the other hand, whilst the road might be deteriorating without showing the stress on the surface, we often do not see the need to do the necessary interventions.
In a context such as ours where there are competing demands on the fiscus, this leads to inadequate allocations and delays in maintenance which ultimately means we intervene when it is too expensive to do so. This is often prompted by the outcry about potholes as we have recently witnessed. I encourage all participants to learn from these lessons.
As a sector, however, we need to deal with such systems and when we have them, to update the information as regularly as required. We must pronounce on the critical actions that as a sector we should be committing to moving forward on this matter. Careful thought should be given to how these systems can be utilised ultimately to improve our budgeting processes across the spheres.
Most industries in South Africa face globalisation and transformation challenges but the South African Transport and Logistics industry faces its own peculiarities that impact on the country as a whole. This industry comprises tens of thousands of individual truck and bakkie owners as well as some of South Africa’s largest conglomerates. These all experience reliability and cost efficiency challenges. They are faced with assets that struggle across inadequate roads, rail and port infrastructure. Rail and port services are integral to all freight transport and logistics companies whether bulk or parcels.
The road vs. rail debate has raged since the early 90’s. The spiral started long before when maintenance budgets and investment decisions were cut and deferred. The downward spiral started when customers started moving off rail. Fewer customers meant less revenue on some routes. This in turn made it difficult to justify continued investment and maintenance of infrastructure. Poor infrastructure resulted in poor service and drove even more customers away. The cycle continues.
Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, it is only through huge investments in skills, infrastructure and our knowledge base that our transport system can drive our economy upwards. We wish our matric learners well with their examinations and may many of them join the exciting world of transport one day.
Issued by: Department of Transport
26 Oct 2010
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