Repairs to the Montagu Pass and the Seven Passes Road on the Garden Route have been delayed without a timeline, as the Department of Infrastructure cites resource constraints and the need to prioritise other roads.
This followed flood damage across the provincial road network during the 2023 winter, as a severe storm took place over the Heritage Day long weekend.
The Montagu Pass and Seven Passes Road are two of the Western Cape roads that had to be closed after sustaining severe flood damage.
“Given the current resource constraints and following the need to prioritise the order in which road repairs can be made, DOI has had to prioritise routes that carry higher traffic volumes and that are associated with greater economic activity than the Montagu Pass and the Seven Passes Road. Despite our efforts, it is not currently possible to provide a timeline for the reopening of the Montagu Pass or the Seven Passes Road.”
The provincial department said initial repair work on Montagu Pass was stopped following intervention by members of the public and Heritage Western Cape (HWC).
“Since the pass is a Provincial Heritage Site, DOI first had to receive the necessary HWC permit before work could be restarted. Before permission was received to restart work, there was further adverse weather that caused the road to deteriorate to the point where it was no longer safe for public use and had to be closed. Various processes then followed before work could be initiated. During this time, the road further deteriorated due to more adverse weather.
“Currently, due to a lack of funding and resource availability required, repairs have been delayed. Repairs have further been severely impacted by the flood repair requirements across the province following more flooding. This delay is due to the damage to the road network during the 2022 and 2023 winter floods, most notably the Heritage Day long weekend floods in 2023. Despite the economic value of the Montagu Pass, including its value to the tourism sector, this is not a critical route because an alternative is available (the Outeniqua Pass). Priority must be given to roads where there aren’t viable alternatives to ensure that communities remain connected to the broader road network.”
The department denied allegations concerning problems with the contractor.
“No contractor was involved in any work on the pass. The department required heritage approval. The heritage approval processes did not previously prohibit maintenance on Montagu Pass and maintenance continued as normal work. Unfortunately, complaints by concerned groups in the area caused work to stop and meant DOI had to follow a Heritage Western Cape approval process. The department has been asked what it is doing to support businesses along closed routes. There are no businesses in the closed section of the pass, meaning businesses remain open. However, the DOI does not have a mechanism or the resources to support businesses affected by closed roads, irrespective of the reason for the closure. This road is no different. The pass will only be reopened when the necessary maintenance has been completed.”
SEVEN PASSES ROAD
The department said Seven Passes Road also sustained significant damage during the 2022/2023 winter floods and remained closed .
“This road will be reopened once it has been repaired to its pre-flood-damaged state. This will take considerable time and resources during a period when there are severe resource constraints. Unfortunately, other damaged roads that carry more traffic and are more economically important are a higher priority.
“During 2022/2023 there were significant slips on the road, most notably between Nelson Mandela University and Wilderness Heights, MR355. The damage was of such a nature that lane closures were implemented where the most notable slips occurred. Traffic was allowed to pass with applicable signage in place. The situation was monitored to see if this could be a safe alternative as an interim measure.”
The provincial department said due to the geometry of the pass and narrow road width, there was a high risk of crashes.
“The DOI has received information about cyclists using the route and distributing their own subjective reports on its suitability for traffic. When a route is closed, it is closed to all road users and for their safety. There is damage below the surface level that is not immediately visible. The DOI will not keep a route closed unnecessarily as it is in our interest to have every part of the broader road network fulfil its role.”