A strip of more than 100 meters of steel and aluminum crash barriers have been stolen off the M2 north near the CBD and a total of more than 400 meters around the Crown interchange. Picture Timothy Bernard 30.01.2013

What’s happened to road railings along some of Joburg’s freeways and bridges?

A few have been left disfigured by motorists crashing into them, but many of these railings, which serve as barriers, have been disappearing for a long time.

Metal collectors are stealing the railings to sell for scrap, putting the lives of motorists and pedestrians at risk.

And with more and more cash for scrap outlets, including backyard ones, mushrooming around town and the trade becoming a lucrative business, metal collectors have become more brazen in their hunt for the precious goods.

Most of the railings that have become the target for metal collectors are made of aluminium.

A quick drive about some of Joburg’s major routes revealed a disturbing picture of missing railings. Whether the metals are located on the busy and illuminated roads and bridges around the city centre or in dim spots, the scrap collectors have not been deterred from stripping the roads of their barriers.

Of particular concern are the on-ramps and off-ramps along the M1 and M2 freeways, bordering the Joburg inner city. The side barriers have been left almost completely bare.

On the Ntemi Piliso on-ramp to the M1 south, almost the entire railing on both sides of the road has disappeared. Only a series of stumps – which served as brackets to fasten the railing – are a reminder of what the road looked like before the stripping began.

The same pattern of bare stumps and missing round, steel pipes continues intermittently along the road until the M1 South/M2 East split and Main Reef off-ramp towards Roodepoort.

The pattern continues all the way to the Nasrec/Southgate off-ramps.

Also of particular concern is the state of the flyover bridges serving as on-ramps and off-ramps to these freeways, as well as pedestrian bridges.


Their design is such that safety depends on the railings serving as side barriers, and without them, motorists could easily plunge metres below.

In recent times, thieves have also taken to stealing the railings along the pedestrian bridges around the Joburg CBD, including the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge connecting Braamfontein to the inner city. This exposes pedestrians to the danger of falling from the bridges and being hit by traffic.

The factory suburbs of Booysens and Selby, located around the M2 and M1 freeways, are among the convenient markets for scrap collectors.

The Star spotted four scrap-metal dealers in Booysens.

A price list obtained from two of the dealers showed that the price of aluminium ranges between R2 and R10 a kilogram.

Joburg metro police spokesman Wayne Minnaar said the police had made several arrests of people cutting railings on roads and bridges over the past three months.

He said the suspects were arrested after they were caught committing the offences on CCTV cameras.

Others, he added, were arrested for cutting manhole covers and water pipes.

Johannesburg Roads Agency spokesman Mosa Makhalima had not responded to questions on what they were doing to curb the problem. -The Star