One legacy of the 2010 Soccer World Cup will be an excellent road infrastructure system which South Africans can all be proud of, says Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele. Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, speaking at the Permanent International Association of Road Congresses International seminar Promoting Road Safety for Vulnerable Road Users, said safer roads in the country were possible through regulation and by design which makes the road environment safer.

“The infrastructure is an inheritance of all South Africans. Democratic values mean sharing. During Apartheid we could have separate schools, hospitals, cemeteries, but you could not have separate roads. Therefore roads have always been in the vanguard of showing that we belong together; we have no choice but to embrace each other,” he said.  In his opening address to the delegates at the Cape Town International Convention Centre yesterday, Ndebele said vehicle crashes had cost the South African economy about R56-billion in 2008.

Speaking to The Times, Ndebele said Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) meant “reliable, safe, affordable and clean” transport for commuters.  “The teething problems in Johannesburg were quite helpful, you saw what the taxi industry was saying. They are not opposed to BRT but they didn’t understand it.”  Ndebele said it was thought that after the 2006/2007 trips to Brazil taken by taxi leadership to investigate their BRT system, there would be wider understanding of what would happen on SA shores.  “But even the opposition has helped to enhance the education (about the system).”

Ndebele said the taxi industry and the City of Johannesburg would sign an ownership agreement by February next year. “Those who said it was just words, how can BRT be controlled and operated by taxi industry, its too good to be true, can see that now it is happening.”  The Minister said he believed the implementation of BRT would get easier as it spread to other cities, including Nelson Mandela Bay.

“It was quite surprising to see people demonstrating against BRT on TV this week, wearing brand new T-shirts and saying they don’t understand. Lets engage (on BRT,” he said.  With the festive season fast approaching, the Minister condemned reckless driving.  Recently, 23 people were killed on the roads during one weekend.  “These are unnecessary deaths. As we launch the holiday season and kids are coming back home, fetched to be happy with their parents, we should not have weeping and wailing because people have been over-indulging and have died.”  The seminar, which finishes on wednesday, will attempt to find solutions for safer roads both in South Africa and around the world.

AUTHOR: Lauren Cohen
DATED: 26th October 2009