Virtual and augmented reality used to explore the N2WCTR project

This is the first time that SANRAL has incorporated virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality technology in an awareness campaign.

The South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) has embarked on a public awareness initiative in the Eastern Cape to educate road users and communities on the N2 Wild Coast Road project.

An exhibition providing a visual representation of the much-anticipated road is currently on display at the Port Elizabeth Airport.

The display at the airport ended on 7 August. The Port St Johns activations will be from 14 to 18 August. The display was at the Greenacres Shopping Centre’s food court in Port Elizabeth in July. The display was also in East London in June with more than 900 people visiting the stand, before heading to Port Elizabeth.

This is the first time that SANRAL has incorporated virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality technology in an awareness campaign.  These were used to give road users an idea of the two mega bridges, the Msikaba and Mtentu, to be built in the Wild Coast.

User experience

Collin Randall, an author from Port Elizabeth said the virtual reality experience has been “very exotic”.

“This has been an amazing experience. It makes South Africa a richer place. The most important thing about the N2 Wild Coast, except for the economic benefits is that it will save lives,” he said.

Sigqibo Ngqezana, from Dwesi Extension in Port Elizabeth said this was the first time he experienced virtual reality. “Wow, it was truly an amazing experience. I loved the fact that I could see the bridge holistically. This is very exciting. I think the N2 Wild Coast project will benefit the Eastern Cape tremendously,” he said.

Charles Meintjies, who works as a car salesman in Port Elizabeth welcomed the project. “I used to travel between East London and Mthatha for about more than three hours. I also used to work in the Transkei area and remember that the roads were very bad,” he said.

Zukile Manyela who lives in Port Elizabeth, is very positive about the N2WCTR. “The project will benefit me because I travel a lot. I have been praying for this for years. I am very relieved because this means I can reach Durban quicker. I love the coastal route. Plus it’s safer. We can get to explore the beauty of the Wild Coast,” he said.

Jobs being created on the project stands out for Any Ntwanambi. “People in that area need this. I think it will be good for the Eastern Cape. I love what SANRAL is doing for us as the people,” said Ntwanambi.

“I have educated myself about this on the SANRAL Facebook page. I am really excited about this project.” said Willie van Heerden, a construction project manager in Port Elizabeth.

“I think this will be beneficial to the people in the area as it will boost them economically. [It] will assist with things like overgrazing which are currently a problem in that area as it will give them more space. It will make the Wild Coast more visible. This will spark an interest and more people are going to go there. I think progress is good,” he said.

Progress made

Some of the progress over the last six months included the awarding of three contracts for the training of SMMEs and the construction of local access roads, which has started in Port St Johns, Ingquza Hill and Mbizana.

Contracts for the construction of four haul roads to the bridge sites, including the relocation of affected houses and graves, will be complete by October. Tenders for the construction of the Msikaba and Mtenu bridges are currently in adjudication.

The Environmental Authorities Coordinating Committee and the Environmental Monitoring Committee have conducted two site inspections to the construction haul roads. They monitored progress and compliance with the Environmental Record of Decision and the approved Environmental Management Programme.

An independent environmental auditor was recently appointed to add further muscle to the environmental oversight on the project.

World-class bridges

The Msikaba River Bridge will consist of a cable-stayed 580-metre-long structure spanning a deep gorge. The Mtentu River Bridge, also on the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road and around 12km to the north of the Msikaba River, will be a multi-spanned concrete structure approximately 1,130 metres long. It will comprise a 260-metre main span and two 150-metre secondary spans constructed as a balanced cantilever on the two main piers that will be approximately 160-metre high. A further total of 570 metres of approach viaducts will be constructed on either side of the central three spans using incremental launching methods.

The Mtentu Bridge will be higher than the Bloukrans Bridge, making it the highest bridge in Africa and the southern hemisphere once complete. The main span of the Msikaba Bridge at 580 metres will be the longest main span in Africa and the southern hemisphere. There are however other bridges in the southern hemisphere and Africa that have longer total spans.

Wild coast

The N2WCTR project is a 410km upgrade of roads from East London to Port Edward. It includes a brand new section of road between Port St Johns and Port Edward via Lusikisiki where currently very little road infrastructure exists due to the numerous deep gorges in the area.

The project is set to change the face of the remote coastal area between Port St Johns and Port Edward and significantly improve the prospects of its impoverished communities. The project will also see bypasses built around Idutywa and Butterworth, both of which are infamous for their traffic congestion and long delays at peak times.

The new route will save approximately 85km and up to three hours driving time between Durban and East London compared to the present one.

The new road is expected to deliver:

  • Job creation
  • Improved service delivery and access to towns and services
  • Improved connection to family and friends
  • Better job opportunities and education facilities
  • Significantly faster travel times and lower transportation costs
  • A major positive impact on the economies of local towns
  • Major conventional tourism and eco-tourism opportunities

For each subsection of the road there will be community development components in the form of local access roads, pedestrian facilities, community halls and small businesses like brick-making and concrete product yards.

The N2WCTR is an integrated and catalytic development, empowerment and upliftment project of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC).

The new route will also open up new and alternative economic opportunities for the residents of the municipalities of Port St Johns, Ingquza Hill and Mbizana – statistically, three of the poorest municipalities in the country. These opportunities may include conventional tourism, eco-tourism, agriculture and other business opportunities both locally and regionally.