The new environmental-impact assessment (EIA) of the N2 Wild Coast toll road project should be completed later this year.

South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) project manager Ron Harmse says the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Deat) is also expected to give a verdict on whether the project may continue or not – based on the EIA – later this year.

The project’s first EIA was set aside by Deat in December 2003, owing to questions surrounding the independence of the environmental consultant responsible for compiling the original EIA.

The N2 Wild Coast highway will run from East London to Durban. It will be 560 km long, and will require about 100 km of new road infrastructure, as well as eight major new bridges.

The remainder of the project involves the widening, rehabilitation and upgrade of the existing road infrastructure, says Harmse.

Part of the proposed scheme, the South Coast toll road, already exists.

Harmse says the final decision to toll all of the road has not yet been taken.

Should the project go ahead, it is planned to be on a design, build and operate basis, similar to the N3 from Durban to Johannesburg, which is operated by the private sector.

The cost of the project is currently estimated at more than R7-billion, but this “is very uncertain, given current inflationary conditions, and so forth”, notes Harmse.

Construction of the project is expected to take about 3,5 years.

Harmse says construction can only start once all the necessary approvals are in place, such as the EIA and permission to toll the highway, as well as the tender process.