afrol News, 24 May - Despite large investments in infrastructure ahead of the FIFA World Cup, some 40 percent of South Africa's road network has "reached crisis point," according to Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele.
South Africa's total paved and gravelled network at provincial level is 184,816 kilometres and 40 percent of the road network has reached crisis point, Minister Ndebele confessed today, adding that the total paved and gravel road network at municipal level is 339,849 kilometres.
"We know that our road network is older than the 20-year design life based on information from 64 percent of the roads. What we know however is that our country needs rand 75 billion [euro 7.7 billion] investments over the next five years to arrest this decline," the Minister said, adddressing a two-day road construction and maintaince summit.
Decades of lacking maintaince had left South African roads in such a poor state only weeks before an estimated 350,000 tourists are to intake the country to celebrate the first soccer world cup organised on African soil. The South African tourism industry has invested large amounts to assure the best impression is given to first-time travellers among soccer fans and the thousdands of journalists.
But South Africa's poor and deteriorating roads are bound to tarnish an otherwise good impression. Government has spent most of its extraordinary infrastructure investments ahead of the World Cup to boost community train services and airports, spending little on the road network, especially on a rural level.
Minister Ndebele now however indicates that road maintaince will by higher up on the agenda. A plan is in the works to develop a ring-fencing mechanism through the creation of a Road Maintenance Fund, the Minister announced today.
"This will set aside funds which will be earmarked for maintenance. One of the critical deliverables we have promised President Jacob Zuma is the delivery of the Road Maintenance Fund," Minister Ndebele said. "It is also about better management of our roads assets and the advantage of this programme is that it will create thousands of jobs and contribute to the growth of the country's economy," he added.
"The biggest challenge with roads is that by the time a problem is visible on the roads surfaces, we are somewhat late with remedial action. On the other hand, a road might be deteriorating without showing the stress on the surface we often do not see the need to do the necessary interventions," the Minister said.
Minister Ndebele however promised South Africa would be able to host a successful World Cup as South Africa's transportation system would be equal to the challenge of carrying domestic and international soccer fans during the upcoming tourney.
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