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Newly appointed Minister of Transport Ben Martins must remind SA that there is more to a transport ministry than e-tolls. This is not to say e-tolls are not significant, but the transport sector has greater challenges, especially in the integrated transport planning, civil aviation, rail transport, public transport and maritime sectors.
With key decisions that require his leadership and direction, Martins must lead from the front. One of the important tasks he faces is the finalisation of the National Transport Master Plan 2050 (NATMAP 2050) which will ultimately become the blueprint of the vision of Transport South Africa.
Its main thrust is the development of a transport infrastructure framework that defines the land transport network usage at all levels; and that framework should be at the centre of the socio-economic development of our country.
The finalisation of the rail policy that covers freight, long distance passenger and commuter rail is also critical. This policy will address the regulatory framework required, infrastructure and operations, as well as make proposals regarding investment required to restore rail to its rightful place in the transport sector.
The key thrust of this policy is investment-led interventions that will encourage injection of capital and technology in the rail infrastructure to encourage rail to win back its market share.
The finalisation of the maritime shipping policy is also critical and will untie the albatros from the government’s neck. It will address issues of trans-shipment, coastal shipping, ship-registration and skills development.
The transformation of the subsidised bus services could become Martins’ legacy if he manages to fast-track the integration of conventional public transport services by incorporating previously informal modes such as taxis and small bus operators.
Martins must also propel SA towards a high quality integrated mass rapid public transport network which includes rail, taxi and bus services.
He needs to crack the whip to fast-track the integrated public transport networks being rolled out in 12 cities.
Seven years ago, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA’s rolling stock renewal programme was like a far-fetched ambition, but today it is within reach.
Martins must fast-track the acquisition of new trains given the conditions of our trains. Come 2014/15, the new trains must be on the tracks.
Martins has a budget allocation of R39 billion for this financial year, projected to rise to R48bn in next year.
He has the personnel to develop and refine policies. Whether there are relevant skills is a question he must answer soon. He also has provincial MECs to back him up. His track record at Public Enterprises seems to suggest he is a capable minister.
l Collen Msibi is a senior manager at the National Department of Transport.