A pothole in our pockets

2008-02-23 00:00

The terrible condition of South Africa’s roads network is costing motorists more than R200 billion a year.

According to the executive director of the SA Roads Federation (Sarf), Dr Malcolm Mitchell, about R20 billion is caused by the poor condition of the roads, including potholes that cause damage to vehicles and contribute to accidents. Traffic jams apparently led to motorists having to fork out 10 times that much.

Experienced roads and civil engineer, Dr John Sampson, also a Sarf representative, said traffic jams lead to higher fuel consumption, lost production hours and higher transport costs.

“A truck that would normally cover two trips from point-to-point per day, can now only do one. That means another truck must be bought to transport the same volume of goods,” Sampson said.

Mitchell said that provincial and municipal roads are also in a state of disrepair.

He blamed this on the decrease in the number of professional roads engineers in the public sector, especially since 2000, and provinces that have one fifth of their required complement of engineers.

Mitchell said a study is needed to determine how much money is required to bring provincial and municipal roads back up to scratch.

Automobile Association (AA) spokesman Gary Ronald estimated that this could cost about R200 billion. According to AA research in 2001, it would have cost about R64 billion to get the roads back to standard.

“Even routine maintenance has not been done since then. Roads that were poor are now in a bad, bad way. With really wet summers to boot there are now so many potholes, no-one knows where to begin. And to fill in a pothole is really only a temporary solution.”

Ronald said the problems are caused by an increase in road transportation of goods and overloaded vehicles.

Collen Msibi, a spokesman for the Transport Department, said a framework for road infrastructure was approved by cabinet last year and the provinces and municipalities will have to stick by it. The department is also compiling a goods-logistics strategy that would balance the amount of goods moved by road and by rail.

Motorists who have complaints about roads can e-mail the AA at roads@aasa.co.za.

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