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The Minister of Transport, Dr Blade Nzimande, delivered his policy debate in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) today. When delivering the debate, he emphasised that the chief aim of the Department of Transport Budget Vote was to reverse the apartheid spatial and infrastructure discrepancies both in urban and rural areas. He said: “Through the S’hamba Sonke Programme, we continue to invest in provincial roads to address spatial inequalities, create jobs and improve rural infrastructure and transport.”

Dr Nzimande said these budget policy imperatives are a shared responsibility of three spheres of government because they have a huge bearing on our country’s road infrastructure, traffic management and access to public transport.

One of the major achievements of the department to date, he said, is the rolling out of The Road Accident Fund (RAF) to all provinces. “We now have 100 hospital service centres, five customer service centres, and three RAF mobile vans servicing rural areas. Through this intervention, claimants can now access all RAF services as well as lodge claims directly,” said Dr Nzimande.

According to him, the newly appointed board of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) will be responsible for the stabilisation and turnaround strategy of this sector’s business. “Among the areas we have given urgent attention to, are the challenges facing Prasa in the Western Cape. We have begun tackling the safety and reliability of Metrorail in this corridor. Prasa is currently implementing a signalling programme to replace the old signalling system, and the project is near completion.”

On the cards is the review of the public transport subsidy system. “To live up to the affirmation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme that commuters should be encouraged to use public transport, he said, they will be reviewing the entire regime of the public transport subsidy, including the amounts for the bus industry, commuter rail, Gautrain and the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) systems.

He said part of the efforts of the department’s policy directives in this financial year is to transform the aviation industry. “Our effort is to continue to transform the aviation industry by producing the necessary aviation skills, targeting the previously disadvantaged groups, on the basis of class, gender and race.”

Participating in the debate, the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Transport, Mr Edwin Makue, said the National Transport Master Plan (NATMAP) gives a clear vision about the type of transport the department wants to bring about, which is about economic growth development in South Africa. “The principles set out in NATMAP are efficiency, affordability and reliable transport system.”

He said poor transport links and infrastructure network have hampered economic growth in the Southern African region. “Poor transport infrastructure has hampered the potential of our economies to translate the rapid growth and higher demand for commodities into rising employment and living standards in the previous decade in which we experienced a commodity super cycle.”

Mr Makue called for the prioritisation of transport infrastructure because the National Development Plan (NDP) places it at the centre of our country’s social and economic development. “This finds expression in Outcome Six of the NDP, which speaks about a need for an efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network to stimulate growth, which is part of the NDP’s Medium-Term Strategic Framework of 2014-2019 to which the work of the department is aligned.”

The poor management of Metrorail and its mother body, Prasa, as state-owned enterprises (SOEs) was highlighted during the debate.

Mr Mntomuhle Khawula who is KwaZulu-Natal’s permanent delegate to the NCOP, told Dr Nzimande about the poor visibility of traffic officers on our public roads and pleaded for their visibility to arrest the ever-growing number of road fatalities during holidays. “The department must increase the visibility of traffic officers on our roads. Over time this has proven to be the most effective deterrent to the road users who deliberately violate traffic rules,” he stressed.

By Abel Mputing
6 June 2018