Transport is key to changing lives
Safe, integrated transport empowers people, touches lives and connects families and communities, writes Ismael Vadi.
Johannesburg - There is an old Chinese saying: “When you want to make the lives of the community better, build a road.” Building of roads and public transport infrastructure therefore goes beyond asphalt and bitumen.
Safe, integrated transport touches lives, empowers people and connects families and communities. It also provides greater links with socio-economic opportunities and facilitates the seamless movement of people, goods and services.
Most importantly for us who have lived under a system of separate development, the government now has an opportunity to re-fashion apartheid geography and to spatially reconfigure the Gauteng city region along the five development corridors as identified by the provincial government.
Over the next couple of years, the work of the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport will focus on a number of high-impact transport projects.
These include the Aerotropolis around OR Tambo International Airport, the extension of the Gautrain, the development of a new freight and logistics hub known as the Tambo-Springs Inland Port, the roll-out of the bus rapid transit systems in Joburg (Rea Vaya), Tshwane (A Re Yeng) and Ekurhuleni (Harambi), and last, the revitalisation of Metrorail.
Cumulatively, these projects will create over half a million jobs during and after the construction phases.
They will stimulate economic growth, particularly in Ekurhuleni, whose manufacturing sector has been slumping.
The Aerotropolis and the Tambo-Springs Freight and Logistics Hub will greatly boost intra-African trade. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development Report 2013, the average share of intra-African exports of merchandise was 11 percent compared to 50 percent in developing Asia, 21 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 70 percent in Europe. We believe the Aerotropolis and the Tambo-Springs Freight and Logistics Hub will greatly impact on our export figures.
Metrorail remains the primary mode of mass transit for a million commuters in Gauteng who use its trains daily. To improve their daily commute, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa is modernising this mode of transport through the acquisition of new coaches. We are also integrating our rail system with the bus systems and Gautrain so that commuters can travel faster and with ease. As part of this, we hope to expand the Gautrain to link Tembisa with Lanseria Airport.
Transport developments should be seen against the backdrop of the new human settlements which are being spearheaded by the private sector and supported by the government. New housing developments such as Steyn City, Waterfall City, River City and Savannah City will grow the population of our province, while transforming our municipalities.
We are working with road and transport officials in different spheres of the government to ensure appropriate road and transport networks are in place to accommodate the additional users.
The public transport and road infrastructure deficit in sub-Saharan Africa remains a challenge as this leads to higher production costs and undermines competitiveness. We have to overcome this deficit progressively as it acts as a constraint on economic growth. This also means that we will continue to maintain the existing road network as we build new roads.
Hence, we are investing heavily in the upgrade of the N12 and N14 freeways, the completion of William Nicol Drive and the R511 from Erasmia to Diepsloot/N14.
In addition, we will rehabilitate and upgrade arterial roads such as the K46 from Fourways to Randburg, the R82 between Eikenhof and Walkerville, and Cedar Road between Runnymead Road and Witkoppen Road.
Annually, the provincial department processes over 250 000 driving licence booking slots. This front-line service as provided by Driver Licence Testing Centres remains a critical meeting point between the department and residents. We aim for this service to be of a good quality and also free of corruption.
To achieve this, the department has implemented 24 computerised learner licence testing centres, which diminishes the role of examiners in conducting learners’ licence tests. In addition, the provincial department with key stakeholders also launched an anti-corruption campaign in Diepkloof, Soweto, in March.
Also, we are expanding our capacity especially to historically disadvantaged communities. During this financial year, we will build two new driving licence testing centres in Kagiso and Sebokeng.
In recognition that a driving licence still remains a key aspiration for many South Africans, in particular our youth, we are partnering with the Gauteng Department of Education to assist grade 11 and 12 pupils to register for learners’ licences.
All spheres of government have made significant investments toward safer, more reliable, affordable, accessible transport systems of the highest standard.
Through the 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan, we hope to encourage commuters of all socio-economic categories to switch to public transport. Let us move Gauteng forward by using public transport.
* Ismail Vadi is the Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.