As South Africa and SADC champion for the UN Decade of Road Safety Action, Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele sees a partial solution to cutting the carnage in the provision of a safe, efficient and reliable public transport system.
Another way of bringing down the country’s unacceptably high crash and death rate is to ensure more freight is moved by rail.
This is the opinion of SA Road Federation president Logashri Sewnerain who says the conferences, strategies, promises and campaigns held over the years have “borne little, if any, fruit”. Speaking yesterday ahead of today’s announcement for proposals to supply more than R100bn worth of rolling stock to boost Transnet capacity to move freight over the next 20 years, Sewnerain said the rail freight agency’s inability to attract freight was a major reason for the excessive number of heavy vehicles on the N3 and other major routes.
“For years now Transnet has planned to attract more freight, as yet without any visible sign of success. Has not the time come to construct a dedicated freight route between Durban and Johannesburg or physically separated lanes on the N3 to accommodate growing demand?” he asked.
Sewnerain acknowledged some heavy vehicles travelled at well over the 80km/h speed limit and passed each other under dangerous circumstances.
“Buses too are driven irresponsibly because drivers know they are unlikely to get caught, let alone brought to book. On the other hand there are many competent and experienced heavy vehicle drivers and many crashes involving trucks are caused by reckless driving of light motor vehicles.”
He wants to see road safety involve more than speed trapping with a more visible presence of moving traffic enforcement vehicles as a starting point.
Ndebele told a meeting of provincial road and transport MECs and other senior transport agencies and bodies there was “continual negative feedback” about the state of the country’s public transport system.
“This is a critical challenge and an efficient public transport system is central to economic success.
“We, the Department of Transport and all associated traffic agencies and departments, are the heartbeat of the economy. Without us people cannot move from one point to another, people cannot go to work, learners cannot reach schools and goods cannot be transported. All public transport, road and rail must function at its optimal best.”