KZN sets aside R3,67 bln to maintain existing infrastructure

2012-06-01 00:00

THE Transport Department in KwaZulu-Natal will change focus from building roads to maintenance of existing infrastructure in the 2012/13 financial year, Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said yesterday.

Presenting his budget, Mchunu said the department’s total budget was R7,4 billion. Of this, R3,67 billion was set aside for the maintenance of roads and R1,5 billion for the construction of new roads.

He said R180 million from the maintenance budget has been allocated to fix potholes on the province’s roads.

However, Mchunu said even the increased maintenance budget was insufficient to deal with the backlog in repairing roads.

“One of the challenges preventing the road network from fulfilling its core function is the high incidence of potholes in the province. Approximately 80% of our roads are more than 25 years old, and the design life of a road is 25 years,” he said.

Mchunu said a road’s lifespan could only be prolonged if regular and proper maintenance was carried out.

He said R108 million has been set aside to provide scholar transport services to 13 000 pupils in 171 schools.

The Transport Department would also focus on reducing accidents by half in KZN by 2020, said the MEC.

The DA spokesperson on transport, Radley Keys, recommended that the department subsidise pupils’ transport costs. He said this would ensure that more students would benefit than the few that received 100% subsidies.

Mchunu replied that the department could not afford to roll out the service to all schools in the province.

Keys said that Premier Zweli Mkhize, in his state of the province address, had committed his government to developing a rail system that would service the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

“Yet there has been no serious consideration given to this matter, evidently because the province does not believe it is within their competence. There needs to be a budget for engaging Metrorail and the national transport department so that this can become a reality,” he said.

Keys commended the department for increasing the budget for road maintenance.

“Common sense tells us that if we do not have the resources to maintain the network we have; it is foolhardy to engage in widespread construction of new roads that will increase the pressure on the maintenance budget.

“Let us maintain what we have before we indulge in the construction of new roads. It is a difficult balance, but we must reach it sooner rather than later,” he added.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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