SA transport change 'urgent'

2013-07-15 10:01
Sindisiwe Lydia Chikunga has said that SA needs to integrate its transport system. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Sindisiwe Lydia Chikunga has said that SA needs to integrate its transport system. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town – South Africa has to urgently integrate its transportation networks in order to maximise the roads infrastructure, the department of transport has said.

"What we want as the department of transport is to move goods from the road to the rail. That we want to do; we have a lot to benefit out of that," deputy transport minister Sindisiwe Lydia Chikunga told News24.

She said that moving goods to rail would see a reduction in the degradation of the road network. In additional, rail cargo costs significantly less that road and has a smaller carbon footprint.

"We'll not be talking about so many accidents that we see on our roads; we'll also have a longer lifespan for our roads."

South Africa's roads are central to economic growth and according to the National Planning Commission (NPC), part of the reason for the congestion on the roads is the transport of bulk goods.

Public transport

The NPC recommends that rail infrastructure be increased to facilitate transport of heavy goods over long distances.

"Railway technology suits the transportation of bulk commodities over long distances at low prices, yet only 11.3% of freight was transported by rail in 2009 (31% of ton-kilometres), with the remainder being transported by road (DBSA 2011a)," the NPC said on its website.

As far as the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) is concerned, rail networks should be ideally suited for the shipping industry and the movement of cargo directly from ships to major centres via rail.

The Integrated Transport Branch in the department is working on bringing together stakeholders to address transport challenges in SA, said Chikunga.

Public transport is one of the key challenges to development as it has the potential to reduce the number of private vehicles on the roads.

In May, Minister in the Presidency responsible for the National Planning Commission Trevor Manuel said that public transport in the country was poor and did not serve the needs of the population.

"A large number of our people live in informal settlements far from places of work and depend on inadequate, often unsafe public transport.

"In addition to the low cost-benefit ratio due to high transport costs, getting to and from work often poses dangers when it means travelling during the dark," Manuel said.

Taxi industry

Chikunga said that though the taxi industry was key in integrating national public transport, the government has not come to any agreement with the industry on a number of issues.

"The taxis are part of us and they are an industry that we've actually had some programmes targeting the taxi industry: The taxi recapitalisation programme is just but one, for instance."

She said that one of the sticking points in the negotiations was the subsidising of taxis.

"We're discussing with them a number of other issues, including subsidising them and the methods we can actually use. We've not come to any agreement, but it's a thing that we are looking into."

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