National roads “an exception”

The primary road network, controlled by SANRAL is graded B, meaning it is “fit for the future”.

The report by the South African Institution of Civil Engineers (SAICE) on the status of public infrastructure in the country is a cause for concern.

It paints a bleak picture of the general level of infrastructure maintenance and contains a warning: there is a danger of collapse.

There are exceptions and national roads are one of these. These include heavy-haul freight lines, the Gautrain rail lines and airports under the control of the Airports Company of South Africa.

The primary road network, controlled by the South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) is graded B, meaning it is “fit for the future”, or to give the full SAICE-description: “Infrastructure is in good condition and properly maintained. It satisfies current demands and is sufficiently robust to deal with minor incidents.”

Vusi Mona, SANRAL’s communications manager, said: “The SAICE-report correctly identifies the state of our national road network – and points to possible stresses.”

The report underlines SANRAL’s retention of its high level of professional engineering expertise, its maintenance of its road network to a high standard. However, the national roads did not achieve an A- grading because of the incorporation of provincial roads which are in poor condition.

Mona said it does point out the need for adequate dedicated funding.

The vast majority of SANRAL’s funding comes from the National Treasury. Tolling on some 13% of the roads, partly as a result of public-private partnerships, looks after the rest.

Mona said: “The fact is simply that as SANRAL has taken on provincial roads, this has not been accompanied by a sufficient increase in funding. The allocated and expected funding from the national fiscus means SANRAL cannot take on more than another 3 000km of provincial roads, as highlighted in our recent long-term strategy – Horizon 2030. The expected increase of the network by another 15 000km to 35 000km has therefore been mooted.

“We are happy with the SAICE-grading but very aware of the fact that the national road network is the artery of the country’s economy, which needs constant upgrading, expansion and maintenance – which underlines the SAICE point that adequate dedicated funding is a necessity.”