Intelligent Transport Society (ITS) South Africa CEO Dr Paul Vorster says the transport debate in South Africa has changed significantly over the past three years, with the country having moved from ignoring the problems to actively addressing them.

For example, the Gautrain rapid- rail-link is more than a year into construction, and both Johannesburg and Tshwane are planning bus rapid- transit systems.

He was speaking to Engineering News on the sidelines of a workshop hosted by ITS South Africa in cooperation with the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the Johannesburg Roads Agency and the ITS Centre of Excellence, as part of transport month 2007, in Tshwane, last week.

Vorster adds that Metrorail is addressing the issue of service levels and of commuter safety with the reintroduction of the railway police. Sanral is upgrading the roads network and has introduced active traffic-management systems on Gauteng freeways with a similar roll-out being planning for Durban and Cape Town.

Transport will be one of the key success factors when judging the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and municipalities will play a leading role in delivering this requirement, he says.

Vorster points out that, of all the challenges for the FIFA World Cup 2010, upgrading public transport is by far the biggest. Part of the solution for this challenge is to also share information about what is happening

“A lot is being done in the background and much has already been achieved. However, the whole solu- tion will not come through public transport.”

Delegates at workshop highlighted skills shortages, procurement delays, adhering to standards, and sustainable finance as some of the challenges being faced.

“The skills shortage we are experiencing is by and large echoed elsewhere in the world. The South African Institution of Civil Engineering conducted a thorough study in 2005 on this and con- cluded that the shortage of civil engineering professionals is between 3 000 and 6 000. At that time, South Africa had capital programmes of about R200-billion. This has increased to well over R400-billion and the skills shortage has dramatically increased. This requires both immediate and long-term solutions,” says Vorster.

He adds that, as part of a long-term solution, ITS South Africa has launched the ITS Centre of Excellence with the mandate to implement, beside others, educational programmes offering formal qualifications that will assist in delivering professional engineers with intelligent transport systems as a specialisation aspect. However, this will help address the shortages only five to ten years from now. As part of the immediate solution, ITS South Africa conducts regular workshops and skills development activities for the current generation of engi- neers working in the field of intelligent transport systems.

“Our biennial e-Transport Con-ference and Exhibition forms part of this programme where we benchmark against the best in the world. Many of our intelligent transport system companies have also concluded agreements with their counterparts abroad to expand their capacity to undertake the large projects they are engaged in locally,” notes Vorster.

He explains that procurement delays are not an engineering challenge, but a management challenge.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Dennis Ndaba
DATED: 19th October 2007