An appropriately designed road network is key to the development of any nation, whether developed or developing, in order to ensure not only economic benefits, but also social and environmental benefits for both urban and rural areas, consulting engineering firm ARUP global infrastructure practice chairperson David Singleton asserted on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Africa Roads conference in Sandton, he noted that appropriately designed road networks provided residents of a country with access to employment, education and healthcare, while also ensuring the economic movement of freight traffic.

He added that investment in paved roads also directly correlated with the economic growth of countries.

South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) northern region toll and traffic manager Alex van Niekerk agreed that sufficient road capacity was essential for the economic growth of a country, while also having social and environmental spin-offs.

Van Niekerk explained that Sanral’s Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), which sought to upgrade the Gauteng freeway network and add additional lanes, had made contributions of R14,2-billion to the province’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008, and would contribute R15,3-billion to the province’s GDP in 2009.

Further, the project had contributed R6,3-billion to the province’s gross geographical product (GGP) in 2008 and would contribute about R6,7-billion to the provinces GGP in 2009.

It would also create about 30 000 indirect jobs during the construction phase and plenty of permanent job opportunities once fully implemented.

He added that the lack of transport and congestion on South Africa’s roads held massive environmental and social impacts for the country.

Between 75 000 and 200 000 vehicles drove on the Gauteng freeway network each day, while traffic growth was at between 5% and 6% each year.

Meanwhile, Van Niekerk said that there were a number of challenges to implementing the GFIP, noting that Sanral needed sustainable funding to implement the project and sufficiently operate the road network once completed.

Tolling was the only option that would provide the roads agency with a consistent revenue stream and allow it to accelerate the implementation of the road infrastructure, he commented.

Sanral was planning to implement an open-road tolling system and expected that it would be challenging to distribute the electronic tags to vehicle owners and to collect the fees from the expected 2,4-million tolling transactions a day.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Chanel Pringle
DATED: 20th May 2009