Transport minister vows to fix road, commuter rail bottlenecks

Transport Minister Barbara Creecy delivers the opening address at the 42nd Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) in Pretoria yesterday. SUPPLIED

Transport Minister Barbara Creecy delivers the opening address at the 42nd Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) in Pretoria yesterday. SUPPLIED

Published Jul 9, 2024


Transport Minister Barbara Creecy has pledged to address challenges in the South African transport sector and highlighted progress made by the industry thus far.

Creecy yesterday said the SA transport sector was not working as it should, but the new Government of National Unity (GNU) was committed to addressing the nation’s many, serious transport challenges over the next five years.

“This sector is not operating as either an effective economic facilitator or as a proper social service. The condition of our roads, logistical and capacity issues affecting our freight network and road safety are just a few of the problems that have plagued the sector in recent times,” she said.

Creecy was delivering the opening address at the 42nd Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) in Pretoria yesterday.

She noted that when the country’s transport systems suffer, its economy faces depressed economic growth, declining investment, and made it hard for working people to get to their jobs affordably or on time.

“Our roads and rail networks are arteries of our nation, and should move people and goods safely, speedily and affordably across the length and breadth of our country, and facilitate our connectivity with Africa and the broader world,” said Creecy.

But she said there had already been progress towards addressing national transport challenges.

Creecy said a major development was the establishment last year of the National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC), chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the adoption by the Cabinet of the Freight Logistics Roadmap.

The minister said the NLCC was continuing with reforms at Transnet to return the entity to the pre-pandemic performance-levels. She said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) was continuing to reopen passenger rail lines affected by infrastructure damage and cable theft, with 28 of 40 priority lines now fully functional.

As of March this year, 256 stations were functional in cities across the country, and that continuous work was being done to open up more strategic commuter and rail corridors, as part of the rail policy approved by the Cabinet in 2023.

Another transport priority identified by Creecy was road safety.

“We cannot normalise a situation in which more than 12 000 people are killed on our roads every year. Nor can our country continue to sustain the cost of more than 10 000 fatal crashes, which the Road Traffic Management Corporation estimates cost R186 billion or 3% of the South African GDP every year. We must ensure the country’s roads are safer for those who use them,” Creecy said.

She also undertook to work with the taxi sector, which carries an estimated 80% of all South Africans using public transport.

“I pledge to ensure it takes its place in a safer, greener transport ecosystem. We must work together to decrease levels of conflict and violence which pose a significant risk to the sector and to commuters,” Creecy said.

“Acknowledging the skills-development theme of the conference, Creecy noted that transport was in the midst of one of the greatest changes since the introduction of the automobile – thanks to evolutions in digital technology and renewable energy.

“The Department of Transport’s Green Transport Strategy can ensure that our development objectives are not at odds with our climate change mitigation laws. Implementation of this strategy will be a priority for this next term of government in an era of hyper globalisation.”

Creecy said another priority was the finalisation of the long-outstanding strategy on the devolution of urban commuter rail services.

She also shared a vision for the country to make the most of its location as a gateway to Africa, as well as its geopolitical relationships through BRICS and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“New technologies and new global imperatives will fundamentally alter the skills required in the transport sector. But equally importantly, they will open up new industries, new opportunities and new forms of economic access, ownership and employment,” she said.