The South African Cabinet has initiated a project through the Department of Transport (DOT) to develop a National Transport Master Plan (Natmap) that will develop and establish a multimodal, transportation system to meet South Africa’s transport needs as far in the future as 2050. The project started in January 2007 and is expected to be completed by March 2009.

The DOT has appointed three Consortia of service providers, consulting engineering company SSI Engineering and environmental consultants, Africon and Ingérop South Africa. The DOT has also appointed an independent academic to advise the DOT and coordinate the work of the three Consortia.

The DOT project manager, Lanfranc Situma says that the Natmap is a physical development plan that will focus on transport infrastructure of national significance, in order to meet transport needs of future economic and land use development in a sustainable way, in view of environmental and energy effects. An integrated transport development plan for the short-, medium- and long-term up to 2050 will be formulated, and gradually implemented through a development plan. The five-year cycle development plan will be aligned to the life of the parliament in session.

The service providers consist of multidisciplinary teams providing services such as traffic and transportation engineering, computer simulation of transport, geographical information systems, town and regional planning, transport economics, population and economic activity forecasts, environmental, energy, legal, institutional and financial services.

SSI’s consortium project manager Dr Nicolaas van Zyl comments that South Africa’s transport system will deteriorate to a near critical level if problems are not tackled as a matter of urgency. Van Zyl adds that a number of transport agencies and authorities are implementing much needed infrastructure projects, however, he says these plans need to be integrated into a single master plan. “The most serious infrastructure problems can actually be related to operational and management issues, and these need to be resolved to increase the use of infrastructure,” van Zyl comments.
Situma explains that the Natmap project is divided into four phases. Phase one, which has been completed, reviewed the current status of the supply and demand of transport infrastructure across all modes, road, rail, air, sea, and pipe lines, as well as current land use patterns. Problems and issues were identified to be tackled in subsequent phases.

Phase two, which has also been completed, analysed the severity and location of transport bottlenecks and operational inefficiencies.

Phase three will estimate the future demand for transport as a function of land use development, population and economic growth scenarios for different time periods up to 2050. Subsequently, Phase three will develop forward plans for transport infrastructure development.

Phase four will conclude the project with the formulation of a National Action Agenda, consisting of a practical, prioritised programme of plans and projects, including costs estimates. The final phase will also conclude the necessary policy, institutional and legislation changes and financial support required for effective implementation.

A national passenger and freight transport model is also being developed as part of the project to determine future transport demand based on various future land use scenarios. A Geographic Information System (GIS) and Databank is developed to host the planning data for analysis purposes. The GIS and Databank will be transferred to the DOT’s information technology system to serve as a planning platform for updating the master plan in the future.