New hope for Buffalo City bypass project

The South African National Road Agency (SOC) Limited is working with Buffalo City to review the costs of the proposed Buffalo River Bridge.

The proposed Buffalo River Bridge and arterial road link between the N2 and R72 has been a long-time in the planning.

The South African National Road Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) and the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality have been in talks over the proposed Buffalo River Bridge city bypass.

The proposed Buffalo River Bridge and arterial road link between the N2 and R72 has been a long-time in the planning. This development would reduce congestion in East London’s central business district, providing road-users with a bypass to the west of the city.

SANRAL had agreed to assist in review the feasibility study – including the costs, said head of spatial planning and development at Buffalo City, Nonceba Mbali-Majeng. This would help in raising funds for the project.

Talks were held between SANRAL and the metro in May and July 2017, and a progress report was recently tabled before council. Other stakeholders involved in the project are the East London Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) and the Border-Kei Chamber of Business.

Initially an estimate for the construction of the bridge and bypass was set at R300-million in 1998, and was now an estimated R615-million, if the project was divided into phases. “Should the project be phased into four contracts, the cost is estimated at R793-million if one assumes a 5% increase per annum,” said Mbali-Majeng.

More stakeholders would be identified during the feasibility study review period, Mbali-Majeng said.

Border Kei Chamber of Business chairperson Les Holbrook said there were a number of roads the chamber wanted the roads agency to take over. “We have seen that the only way to get the roads in good condition is when SANRAL takes over.”

The chamber had held a meeting with SANRAL in May 2017, and had also been lobbying for the project to be government funded, he added. “There are various funding tools that can be used; one of them is the municipal infrastructure grant. They must apply for those.”

A long time coming

“We have been asking for this road for more than 15 years,” Holbrook said.

Buffalo City revived the plan in 2016 and roped in SANRAL, with the intention of SANRAL taking over the project and redefining it on their own terms and conditions.

All parties agreed the project should be phased and all resources be directed to the first phase to get the project to the implementation stage, Mbali-Majeng said.

“SANRAL [has] committed to redo the analysis of whether the proposed route is still cost effective due to the time lapse between 2004 and 2015.”

The agency had agreed to review the project and its associated costs and “thereafter the revised costs would be used to request contribution to project by the various affected stakeholders”, Mbali-Majeng added.

SANRAL is in the process of preparing a project implementation plan for the route analysis which will be presented to Buffalo City at its next progress meeting.