South Africa is spending close to R160-billion over the medium-term to improve its transport infrastructure, Finance Minister Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday.

Of the overall figure, some R13,6-billion has been earmarked to prepare South Africa’s transport system for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

South Africa is spending R70-bilion on road infrastructure, R3-billion on access roads, R19,5-billion on airports development, R400-million on air traffic navigation, R18-billion on passenger rail, R7,7-billion on the taxi recapitalisation programme, and R25-billion on the Gautrain.

With 750 days to go, Radebe stated that almost all of the large construction projects in the host cities had started, with some already having been completed and others in final stages of completion.

“…our 2010 related projects are in full swing and the majority are to be concluded before or on time for the event,” he said.

Radebe also said that over the last 18 months the South African Rail Commuter Corporation (SARCC) had been able to upgrade or overhaul 790 coaches that have been deployed back into service.

He added that the SARCC had also already committed another 700 coaches to be refurbished this financial year at a cost of about R2-billion.

“This is vital because a key factor in the deterioration of rail services has been under-investment in rolling stock,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Radebe announced that South Africa’s passenger rail service would undergo a multi-billion rand recapitalisation.

“It is very clear that if we can’t do this intervention, the passenger rail service in South Africa, at some point, will collapse totally, and we can’t as government allow that to happen,” Radebe was quoted as saying by Sapa.

The recapitalisation would be a public-private partnership, and the SARCC and transport department already completed the “business case” for recapitalising Metrorail.

He was quoted as saying that the acquisition of new trains would probably be the “biggest acquisition” in the developing world.

The Transport Department also announced that it would implement a pilot project for its Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) project, which included a demerit system, in June with a national roll-out planned for next year.

The AARTO was aimed at fostering law compliance to ensure road safety. The proposed strategy included that if a certain number of demerit points were allocated to the driver, the person’s driver’s licence would be suspended for a certain amount of time.