‘Widen the bottleneck’

2012-07-30 00:00

THERE seems to be no end in sight to the carnage caused by construction along the N3 in Pietermaritzburg.

Concrete barriers along the Chota Matola section are forcing traffic on South Africa’s busiest delivery route into a bottleneck.

Crashes there have already claimed serveral lives, inlcuding that of a child.

Opposition parties yesterday said enough was enough and called on the provincial government to deal with the hazard as a matter of priority.

On Friday alone three trucks crashed in the space of five hours on the one-kilometre stretch near the Liberty Midlands Mall.

The accident hot-spot is now dubbed the “death trap” by locals.

Yesterday morning firefighters responded to an emergency call to attend to a burning truck on the same stretch of road, only to find yet another crash involving a truck and four minibuses at the same scene.

Msunduzi Fire Department’s divisional officer, Themba Mkhulisa, said they received a call about a truck that was burning near the road construction site.

“When my colleagues arrived on scene they found that there was another accident involving a cargo truck and four minibuses,” he said.

The four minibuses had been ferrying Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fans returning to KwaZulu-Natal from the Saturday night football derby in Gauteng.

About 30 people were injured, according to Netcare911 spokesperson Chris Botha.

Seven major accidents have happened along the “death trap” — most of them involving trucks — since February, and several lives have been lost.

The Democratic Alliance, National Freedom Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party have called on MEC for Transport Willies Mchunu to prioritise the “death trap” by at least increasing traffic police visibility in the area.

DA transport spokesperson Radley Keys said “a lot of truck drivers ignore road signs on that particular road, but then there is also an issue of lack of police visibility, especially at night”.

He said the Transport Department either did not see the construction site as a serious hazard or it lacked resources to deal with the problem.

“We are calling for the MEC of Transport to prioritise the Chota Motala/N3 by increasing traffic police visibility until the construction is over, to avoid more carnage.”

Keys said the disurption to traffic was affecting the economy; each time there was an accident, cargo trucks piled up for hours.

Friday’s accidents snarled up traffic for six hours.

“If this carries on regularly like it is happening olong that construction site then it is bound to affect our country’s economy negatively,” said Keys.

IFP transport spokesperson Lindani Mncwango said the situation at the construction site had become a national crisis because it had become a death trap.

“People have died since the construction … People who were able to benefit the country are now disabled,” she said.

Mncwango called on Transport Department to investigate whether it was possible for work to be done in stages because the construction company contracted for the job seemed to be doing “too much work in a far too busy an area”.

NFP spokesperson Professor Nhlanhla Khubisa said “road accidents have a ripple effect because they affect business and communities and cripple the government as the Road Accident Fund has to be used where accidents could have been avoided”.

He called on politicians to play their oversight role to ensure that companies that had been awarded tenders to complete the work on time because construction on that stretch of the N3 had been taking far too long.

Attempts to reach the Transport Department and the Group Five site manager were unsuccessful at the time of going to press.

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