Road freight under spotlight
Cape Town - The massive volumes of freight being moved across South Africa by road rather than rail came under the spotlight at Parliament on Tuesday.
"The road freight sector carries 87% of the total freight in the country," senior transport department official Clement Manyungwana told MPs.
Briefing members of the transport portfolio committee, he said that in 2003, about 720m tons, out of a total 900m tons of surface freight transported, had moved by road.
By 2007, the by-road figure had almost doubled, to just under 1.4bn tons of the total 1.6bn tons of surface freight moved.
"Among the key challenges we face is the damage of roads due to the intensive usage in the movement of freight, [as well as] congestion, accidents and pollution."
Decline in freight rail
He said the decline in freight rail over the past decade was due to, among other things, a lack of investment in rolling stock, a lack of customer focus, a lack of flexibility and insufficient investment in training, development and staff by the operator.
"We currently have [insufficient] investment in our network and [freight] rolling stock. Transnet currently has a [capital expenditure] of R110bn over the next five years.
"The view is, this is not sufficient; let alone the additional funding that is needed for the railway branchline network.
"Outdated technology within the rail network causes us to have continuous challenges [compared to] road. But a lack of customer focus ... is one serious, serious challenge that [causes] our rail [freight operations] to decline.
"This is particularly in terms of the tariff regime that our rail environment charges overnight without, in most instances, consulting with the customers. But also just lack of collaboration with the customer base that can make investments work within the rail space," he said.
Manyungwana's presentation came under fire from Democratic Alliance MP Manny De Freitas, who said he had hoped it would say what was being done, rather than reviewing what was known.
"It's just talk, talk, talk, and there's no plan," he said.