The province is “vigorously” pursuing the implementation of an integrated safety and security system (I3S) as one of a number of intelligent transport systems being rolled out in the country’s busiest region, says Gauteng transport, roads and works MEC Ignatius Jacobs.

His finance colleague, Paul Mashatile, last year released R75 million from the Gauteng Development Strategy Fund to the province’s Department of Community Safety (DCS) for the project. The money was to be disbursed over three years, starting in April 2006.

Mashatile said the project was “part of the preparations for hosting the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup”. Jacobs gave it a more transport-oriented flavour, saying the province’s plans to implement an intelligent number plate system from next month formed part of the I3S.

A DCS source says the I3S was conceived as a central database for traffic accidents, after the provincial government found it had no idea of how many traffic incidents were taking place on Gauteng’s roads and no way of calculating such a figure.

It was found that various local authorities, the provincial road traffic inspectorate and the SA National Road Agency (Sanral) all kept statistics related to roads in their care, but that this was not collated.

“So the need was for a centralised database that gave a real-time indication of where accidents are happening so they could intervene faster,” the source notes. The project’s parameters were later extended to include a “whole lot of security issues, not just traffic,” the source adds.

Testing, testing…

Jacobs’ spokesman, Alfred Nhlapo, says the I3S is still in pilot phase and is being tested along part of the N3 and M2 highways, south and east of Johannesburg. He declined to explain what the system consisted of, or how it functioned, saying that might compromise security.

It appears the system involves a database and business intelligence functionality, in addition to some close circuit televisions linked to a command centre to allow for incident response. “It will enhance mobility, as well as safety and security [on the province’s roads],” Nhlapo says.

Regarding the number plate refresh, Nhlapo says Jacobs is still chasing the January implementation target. “We will advise you if that changes. We are finalising the regulations.”

He could not provide clarity as to what the scheme consisted of, adding that the “implications for motorists are still under discussion”.

It was reported earlier this year that Gauteng motorists would have to replace their current number plates at their own expense with new plates from next month because of the ease with which they are being cloned. It was reported that, when introduced, the Gauteng government had neglected to put in place any control measures to prevent fraud, safeguard the uniqueness of each number plate set and guarantee that the correct plates are affixed to the correct car.