By Fred Nel MPL, DA Shadow MEC for Roads and Transport
Not all targets set in Integrated Transport Master Plan met
Note to editors: The following speech was delivered during the 2018/2019 Budget Vote of the Department of Roads and Transport in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature
In 2012 the Department of Roads and Transport completed the Integrated Transport Master Plan’s five-year implementation plan. This plan set thirteen objectives that it wanted to achieve over the short term. That five-year period has since expired.
Also completed by the same department, in November 2013, was the Gauteng Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25) which re-listed these thirteen interventions but expanded on the strategy to give fruition to these objectives.
In principle the ITMP25 made some good suggestions about improving Gauteng’s transport environment. It acknowledged the importance of transport in growing the economy as well as the importance of making rail the backbone of our public transport system. It also states the importance of land use densification to promote proper public transport.
The ITMP25 does not exist in isolation and needs to support the Gauteng 2030 and 2050 plans which both acknowledge the importance of transport in achieving economic growth.
Although I believe the ITMP is somewhat outdated and due for a revision, it is the plan and the budget that is needed to support this project, that we are considering.
The question we as legislators therefore must answer, is whether the medium-term budget framework speaks to the transport master plan of the province?
The budget we are considering today makes mention of both the five and twenty-five-year plans that the department formulated. However, very few of the five-year plan’s thirteen objectives were met during that period. In fact, I would go as far as to say that none of the objectives were fulfilled.
On the face of it, the budget is aligned to make public transport a priority in the province. However, upon closer inspection the 57% spent on public transport is in the form of bus subsidies and supporting the Gautrain. There is absolutely no investment in public transport infrastructure by the province.
Granted, the bulk of the rail network does belong to Prasa and national government is expected to make the investment in its infrastructure. This makes it very difficult for the provincial government to plan as government seems to fall behind in its investment in Prasa as corruption plagues Transnet.
However, what we require from our provincial government is a more assertive approach to the national Department of Transport if we are to build a proper public transport system in the province.
Why is this important?
Firstly, due to the apartheid spatial legacy most of the poor in our province lives the furthest away from economic opportunities. As such they are dependent on affordable public transport to access these opportunities.
Unfortunately, Gauteng’s public transport is the most expensive on the continent and excludes the poor from the advantages it should offer all citizens. According to the National Household Travel Survey released by Stats SA in 2014 as well as information contained in the 2030 and 2050 plans, more than 45% of Gauteng households spend more than 10% of their income on public transport. The average spend on public transport for commuters ranges from R467,00 per month on rail transport up to R1332 per month on personal vehicle travel. Today it is even more.
Secondly, travel times have increased significantly with a train user spending on average 102 minutes traveling, bus user 92 minutes, taxi user 63 minutes and car user 49 minutes impacting negatively on productivity. This is an average of 46 minutes per commuter up from 32 minutes in 2000.
Finally, it is estimated by these reports that 70% of provincial roads have reached the end of their lifespan and are limited in their capacity. The department has received three hundred million rand in additional funds to maintain roads in this financial year. The only problem is that the increase is driven by the higher number of roads that need to be rehabilitated. This is because of years of underspending on road maintenance that is now coming to bite this province in its wallet.
The construction of new roads and increasing capacity of major routes is only a temporary solution and placing a plaster on a knife wound. The department’s delays in the awarding of tenders has caused it to fall behind on its roads programme as projects keep getting postponed.
Given the fact that Gauteng has the highest per capita vehicle ownership in the country and is the fastest growing province by population in the country the future of road travel is becoming unsustainable. The equation is therefore quite simple;
more people + more cars + stagnant public transport infrastructure capacity = gridlock.
This is why investment in public transport is crucial.
Unfortunately, the department’s budget does not support the tough decisions that this government should be making. It is important to expand the capacity of rail as a matter of urgency as rail is the cheapest form of public transport for commuters with the highest cost recovery.
Road-based public transport like e-hailing services, taxis, minibus taxis and buses contribute to congestion although not at the levels that private vehicles do.
Our medium distance bus services are plagued by unroadworthy vehicles and are unreliable leaving commuters stranded for long periods during strikes.
We have one of two futures. We can continue on the “do nothing” path as the ITMP25 refers to inaction without interventions and ends in a gridlocked future.
The better future would be to heavily invest in public transport with rail as its backbone and get more citizens on to quality public transport.
It is also important to embrace and make policy provision for innovation and the integration of new typologies like the hyperloop and even flying taxis in our future transport planning.
We have a duty to move the people of Gauteng between their families and economic opportunities quickly with affordable, safe, on-time and quality public transport.
Unfortunately, this budget is not moving us in that direction.