By MEC Ismail Vadi
It is my pleasure to table to the House the 2015/2016 Budget of the Department of Roads and Transport. The department has been allocated R6.6 billion for its core programmes. Broadly speaking this has been earmarked to five programmes, namely, Administration (R318 million); Transport Infrastructure (R2.26 billion); Transport Operations (R2.19 billion); Transport Regulations (R281 million) and Gautrain (R1.5 billion).
Also, Members of the House should note that the department is the main contributor towards “own revenue” generated by our provincial government. This revenue is generated through motor vehicle registration and licensing fees.
Revenue in this category is expected to grow to R3.1 billion as a result of annual increases in tariffs and more efficient methods of collection through the South African Post Office and the Registration Authorities.
The Chinese have a saying, “When you want to make the lives of the community better, then build a road”. Building roads and public transport infrastructure goes beyond asphalt and bitumen. It touches lives and empowers people. It connects families and residents. And it provides greater socio-economic access, linkages to opportunities and seamless mobility.
Roads and public transport link and integrate whole communities and facilitate the seamless movement of people, goods and services. More importantly for us who have lived under a system of “separate development”, it helps us to re-fashion apartheid geography and to spatially reconfigure the Gauteng City-Region along the five development corridors identified by the ANC government. I would go so far as to say that roads and public transport infrastructure is the backbone of the transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation agenda of the Gauteng Provincial Government.
Over the next few years our work in government will centre on several game- changing projects. This will include:
the Aerotropolis around OR Tambo International Airport;
the further extension of the Gautrain rail system;
the development of a new freight and logistics hub known as the Tambo-Springs Inland Port;
the continued roll-out of the bus rapid transit systems (BRT) in Johannesburg (Rea Vaya), Tshwane (A re Yeng) and Ekurhuleni (Harambi); and
the recapitalisation of Metrorail.
Cumulatively, these game-changing projects will create over 500 000 jobs during the construction and post-construction phases. It will stimulate economic growth, particularly in Ekurhuleni. And it will open the way for the transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation of our economy.
Although these projects have a medium-term trajectory there is an urgency to lay the footprints on the ground as quickly as possible so as to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and reduce inequality in society. So, while we are busy delivering on the month-to-month programmes of the department, we have started putting the building blocks in place for the development of these mega-projects on which the future expansion of the Gauteng economy will rest. We are, therefore, pleased that the 29 business projects linked to the Aerotropolis as well as the acquisition of 48 new coaches for Gautrain will be showcased at the Gauteng Infrastructure Investment Conference to be hosted by the Premier on the 16-17 July 2015.
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. The development of the Aerotropolis, including the further development of Lanseria and Wonderboom Airports and the Tambo-Springs Freight and Logistics Hub, can change this radically and boost intra-African trade, and should be seen as projects of strategic importance.
The planned expansion of the Gautrain rapid rail system will link Tshwane and Ekurhuleni with Lanseria International Airport. Together with this, the acquisition over the next decade of new rolling stock by PRASA for Metrorail operations in Gauteng will change the daily commuting experiences of our people. In our province Metrorail remains the primary mode of mass transit with one million passengers riding its trains daily. We must modernise and transform this mode of transport and ensure that it is integrated with other modes such as the BRT systems and Gautrain.
PRASA’s proposed development of a new rail maintenance and construction depot in Nigel will strengthen the country’s capacity to position rail as the backbone of a future public transport system.
This infrastructure-led growth of our economy away from its total dependence on consumer-led growth would give us the much needed impetus to lay the foundation for broader socio-economic development in our province.
These transport-related developments must be seen against the backdrop of the post-apartheid human settlements that are being spearheaded by the private sector and supported by the ANC government. New housing developments such as Steyn City, Waterfall City, River City, Syferfontein and Savannah City, to meet the projected growth in our population, will transform the city-scape in different municipalities in our province. Roads and transport officials in different spheres of government should ensure that there are appropriate road and transport networks to accommodate the additional users.
Generally, the deficit in sub-Saharan Africa in public transport and road infrastructure remains a challenge in the region as it leads to higher costs of production. We have to overcome this deficit progressively as it acts as a constraint on our economic growth. In part this means that we must continue to maintain the existing roadnetwork as we build new roads and public transport facilities. Therefore, our provincial government is investing heavily in the rehabilitation and upgrade of key arterial routes such as the N12 and N14 freeways, on which we will spend over R1 billion to rehabilitate. This work has already begun and I must stress that these freeways will not be tolled in future.
In the central corridor the department has completed the reconstruction of William Nicol Drive, which will be officially opened during next month. The department will also upgrade Cedar Road into a dual carriageway – this project was launched last week. In addition, the department will upgrade the K46 into a dual carriageway from Diepsloot/Fourways towards Randburg.
In October this year, the City of Johannesburg will showcase infrastructure allowing it to go Eco Mobile. During Transport Month, it will be promoting walking, cycling and using public transport in a way that we have never done before. As part of the Eco Mobility Month programme certain roads in the Sandton CBD will be closed to private motor vehicles and instead the City will be encouraging residents, workers and visitors to consider other ways of travelling to this usually congested CBD. The streets will be used for cycle and green transport mode rides, street theatre, music and public art, all in the spirit of promoting the inner city use of public transport and NMT.
The city is on track in rolling out Phase 1C of Rea Vaya between Alexandra, Sandton, Midrand, Ivory Park and the CBD. This phase will see high levels of integration with other public transport modes, walking and cycling. Two new bridges will be built over the M1, with one dedicated to walking and cycling.
The city has concluded negotiations with public transport operators operating in Dobsonville, Riverlea, Coronationville, Mapetla and Pimville where the Rea Vaya now operates. As of 1 July 2015, a new bus operating company 100 per cent owned by former mini-bus taxi operators and PUTCO will come into operation. This is not only a milestone for public transport but also for broad based black economic empowerment.
Later this month the first of the new green Metrobuses will have been delivered and over the medium-term the city aims to ensure that all public transport vehicles use a combination of clean fuels, including biogas. Lastly, the City is building new public transport facilities in Lehae, Slovoville, Lenasia and completing in partnership with our department an intermodal facility in Roodepoort.
In the northern corridor the department will complete the reconstruction of the R511 from Erasmia to Diepsloot/N14 and a portion of Garsfontein Road will become a dual carriageway. Phase 1A of A Re Yeng was launched in November 2014 and Phase 1B – from Wonderboom to the CBD – is scheduled to be launched in November this year.
In addition, the Tshwane Bus Services is to be recapitalized. Services are to be expanded to eastern parts of the City and 120 new busses have been procured and additional drivers employed for this purpose. The city is upgrading Maunde, Simon Vermooten, Garsfontein and Olivenhoutbosch Roads, which are regional connectors. Currently, it is finalizing its Integrated Transport Plans, which will consider the easing of traffic congestion from the north through PWV9 and linking Wonderboom Airport.
In the eastern corridor, we will upgrade the R103 into a dual carriageway between Van Dyk Road and Diana Road. In addition, the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has already constructed the first 5km of the dedicated BRT Trunk Route and work has commenced on the next 5km.
The construction of the stations is also underway with six stations targeted for completion by mid-2016. The Transport Management Centre, which will be used for monitoring the buses, will be completed by the end of July 2015 and the process to purchase the first 52 Euro V buses required for the launch has been initiated. Finally, in the eastern corridor the Rhodesfield road network is to be upgraded to improve accessibility into the area as part of the OR Tambo Aerotropolis development.
In the southern corridor the department has completed 50 per cent of the construction of Phase 2 of the R82 into a dual carriageway between Eikenhof and Walkerville. The Sedibeng District Municipality is in the process of developing a new 5-year Integrated Transport Plan; initiating a feasibility study for the Vaal Logistics Hub and a bus rapid transport system to link the sprawling townships of the Vaal with the CBD, and completing the Taxido intermodal facility at the Vereeniging station.
In the western corridor the department’s most significant project is the rehabilitation of the N12 freeway from Eldorado Park up to the boundary of the North West Province. This will be of enormous benefit to the mining houses in the region and to the freight traffic coming from the Western and Northern Cape Provinces. In addition, the West Rand District Municipality is engaged in constructing new township roads and several taxi ranks to facilitate mobility across communities. The department intends to launch the West Rand Bus service on 1 April 2016.
New dispensation on e-Tolls
The new dispensation on e-tolls announced by Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is a huge step forward. While the “user-pays” principle has been affirmed, both national and provincial government have agreed to make financial contributions to SANRAL so as to ease the financial burden on low and middle income families. This dispensation strikes a careful balance around three issues, namely, improving our road infrastructure for socio-economic development purposes; the utilization of the ‘user-pays’ principle in partly funding road infrastructure; and ensuring affordability for our people.
It is fair, administratively simpler and more sustainable. This House should note that the Minister of Transport has gazetted the reduced tariff structure and it is anticipated that the new tariffs will be applicable as of 2 July 2015. The new dispensation shows that we are a responsive and a responsible government; a government that is sensitive to the concerns of its citizens. We, therefore, wish to reiterate the call made by the Premier last Thursday in the House urging “motorists and the people of Gauteng to support the new dispensation and pay their tariffs”.
Anti – Corruption drive
Last week the Premier raised the issue of corruption in the Driver License Training Centres (DLTCs). Frontline services at DLTCs are the rock-face where residents experience daily the level of service our government is providing to them. From January to December 2014, we were able to provide 286 360 driving license booking slots.
Providing better facilities for licensing services is important. Equally important is that there must be integrity in the process so that clients feel a real sense that services are free from corruption. To achieve this, the department has rolled out 24 Computerised Learner License Testing centres, which limits the role of examiners in conducting learners’ license tests. This reduces the element of perceived corruption in the assessment process.
The department has also publicly launched its Anti- Corruption Campaign in Diepkloof, Soweto in March this year. The launch was supported by Corruption Watch, the South African Insurance Crime Bureau, the Public Service Commission, the South African Police Services, and the Portfolio Committee on Transport. These stakeholders endorsed the department’s Corruption- Free Zone Campaign. Earlier this month, we had launched together with the Department of Education an exciting programme to get Grade 11 and 12 learners to register for learners’ licenses so that, if they are successful, they leave school with an additional certificate in the bag. Lastly, we have arrested officials allegedly involved in corruption as was demonstrated at Maponya Mall recently.
These measures are having the desired effect of reducing the possibility for corruptive practices at DLTCs.
To enhance integrity in our procurement processes Treasury has chosen the Department of Roads and Transport to champion a new “open tender” process. On 1 March 2015, the Cedar Road construction tender was publically adjudicated on, and all indications are that this could well be a model that would find public approval because of the integrity, fairness, transparency and predictability such a system offers.
Public transport operations
Recently, the department announced its intention to renegotiate the subsidised bus contracts with bus companies. These contracts were based on apartheid spatial development, which located black workers far from their places of work at great cost to the state and daily stress on commuters. A Joint Working Group has been constituted with municipalities, bus companies and the department to hammer out the technical details of future contracts. If the negotiations continue as intended, the following outcomes are envisaged.
Bus companies will be given seven year negotiated contracts which would enable them to modernise the fleet some of the routes would be rationalised to make the contracts financially viable for companies, and a defined black empowerment component must be built into the contracts.
Minibus taxis remain the biggest mover of commuters in our province. They remain our most important partners in the provision of transport to our people. However, it is regrettable that taxis are perceptually associated with violence and killings. The spike in the recent violence is of concern to the government and commuters alike, but it should never be that we rush to generalisations and allow taxis to be defined by killings and violence alone. Having said that I must indicate to the House that this matter is receiving serious attention by government as a whole.
Improving the behaviour of taxi drivers on our roads is an area where there is a need for greater co-operation between the traffic law enforcement agencies, the department and taxi owners. There is an overwhelming perception by other road users and commuters that reckless driving by taxi drivers poses a huge safety risk to them. In the interests of greater road safety and to protect lives from being lost through road accidents we must take determined steps to instil a culture of law abiding, courteous and safe driving on our roads by taxi drivers.
We are looking forward to the publishing of the report by the Portfolio Committee on Roads and Transport on its enquiry into the taxi industry and the current licensing regime. This is a very good initiative which can provide new insight into the taxi industry and the department will endeavour to act on the findings and recommendations of the Committee Report.
As I conclude, let me emphasise that the ANC government has made huge investments, and will continue to invest, in road infrastructure and public transport, which is safe, reliable, affordable, accessible, and of a high standard. For this we are guided by our well designed 25 year Integrated Transport Master Plan. The goal of course is to incentivise commuters of every socio-economic category to travel on public transport. This is good for our environment, eases traffic congestion and promotes wellness.
Finally, I would like to thank our senior management and staff led by the HoD, Mr Ronald Swartz, the CEO of Gautrain, Mr Jack Van der Merwe, and the CEO of gFleeT, Mr Chikane Chikane for their support and making it possible for us to deliver on our mandate.
I also want in particular to thank the Chairperson, Jacob Khawe, and Members of the Portfolio Committee for their vigorous oversight over the department and their contributions to improve the services of the department to all our people in our province.
Lastly, I want to express a huge thank you to all our transport stakeholders who assist us to raise our level of performance as a department.
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