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The rapidly deteriorating state of KwaZulu-Natal’s potholed roads has forced the province to switch its strategy from building new roads to maintaining the road network, with 70 percent of its R7.4 billion 2012/13 budget being channelled towards achieving this objective.
Delivering his budget speech in the legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday, Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said the maintenance backlog was rapidly increasing because the majority of provincial roads were 25 years old.
“They have reached a delicate and a dangerous situation and are affected by even the slightest rainfall. If we do not do road maintenance immediately we will have a crisis on our hands,” warned Mchunu.
He said from the infrastructure budget, R3.7bn would go towards maintenance, with R1.5bn set aside for the construction of new projects.
Potholes alone, which have become a major problem in KZN roads, would account for R180 million of the money set aside for maintenance.
Mchunu said the number of potholes was one of the challenges preventing the KZN road network from fulfilling its core function.
“About 80 percent of our roads are more than 25 years old and the design life of a road is 25 years. The lifespan of such roads can be prolonged only if regular and proper maintenance has been carried out,” he said.
“Unfortunately the occurrence of regular maintenance has been minimal due to a shortage of funds for such programmes.”
Mchunu said the maintenance included regravelling, blacktop patching, reseals, safety and special maintenance.
“Although there is an increase in allocation, the budget allocated to maintenance is not sufficient to drastically reduced backlogs in maintenance,” he said.
“It is, however, a start in the correct direction to maintain the existing provincial road network.”
The DA’s spokesman on transport Radley Keys, commended the department for putting greater weight on maintenance than on the construction of new roads.
“Let us maintain what we have before we indulge in the construction of new roads. It is a difficult balance, but we must reach it sooner rather than later,” said Keys.
Mchunu also announced that his department would roll out the provision of pupil transport to 13 000 children in the province at a cost R108m.
However, he said this was not enough, as R3bn was required to provide sufficient transport for needy pupils.