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There are no quick fixes for Field’s Hill, according to Transport MEC Willies Mchunu. But his stance has infuriated opposition parties who want him to implement an immediate ban on heavy trucks, following the tragedy on September 5 in which a runaway truck killed 23 people.
On Tuesday, Mchunu announced in the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg that he would be undertaking a consultative process on the issue of the heavy vehicle ban.
“A reasonable MEC would never ban trucks on a whim. It has social and economic implications which must be dealt with,” he said.
Opposition parties slated this decision saying that, as the head of transport in the province, Mchunu had a responsibility to act without delay and impose a ban.
“Field’s Hill has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with ensuring the safety of motorists,” DA member of the provincial legislature, Radley Keys, said.
The Minority Front’s Vimmi Ramdass said she had counted 800 trucks on her trip to Pietermaritzburg and called for action to be taken to lower the high number of heavy vehicles on the road.
Durban Harbour Carriers’ Association chairman, Kevin Martin, said a ban on trucks going down Field’s Hill was the right call, and from his experience in the freight industry “peace of mind” was worth a few extra rand spent on diesel or toll fees.
“You can travel up Field’s Hill to a supermarket with your goods, but when empty you should take the toll road down,” Martin said.
“The simple reason is trucks shouldn’t be there. If something does go wrong people could be injured,” he said, adding that the toll route had the necessary arrestor beds and run-off areas for an emergency.
Trucks that needed to travel down Field’s Hill should have to obtain special permits, and be checked by traffic authorities weekly, he said.
Keys said the public wanted reassurance
“It has been almost two weeks since the horror accident took place. Yet the MEC has still not acted to prevent further disasters of this nature,” he said.
Mchunu said the process of speaking to “stakeholders” near Field’s Hill would take about two weeks, in which he would aim to gather “all the facts” before making a decision.
“After this engagement, I will table a comprehensive report on my findings to both (the) cabinet and the legislature for debate,” he said, adding that in the interim no changes to the current restrictions on Field’s Hill would be made.
Mchunu said his first consultation to discuss if the ”status quo” needed to be changed, began on Tuesday.
Mchunu said some of the main role players in the discussions would be businesses and industrial parks in the Kloof, Hillcrest and Pinetown areas.
He said that if freight was to be taken off the road altogether, rail networks would need to continue to be upgraded, as they were the best alternative.