Deputy Minister of Transport, Honourable Sindisiwe Chikunga
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee on Transport
Chairperson and CEO of The New Age
Director General of the Department of Transport and other senior managers
Board members and CEOs of our SOEs and regulators
Distinguished captains of the industry
Members of the media
Viewers at home
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to address you this morning on the occasion of this breakfast briefing which is ably co-hosted by The New Age and our nation’s public broadcaster, the SABC.
I agreed to this engagement because I respect the obligation and duty to keep our stakeholders and the general public informed of our on-going endeavours to implement the mandate of the Department of Transport.
On the 9th of February 2012, in his state of the nation address, our president, His Excellency Mr Jacob Zuma, outlined an infrastructure plan that represents a bold, strategic and integrated platform to mobilise the state, private investors and the South African public behind a clearly articulated narrative of investment opportunities in South Africa. Some of the projects involve developing and integrating rail, road and water infrastructure.
The Department of Transport has the responsibility of providing safe, reliable, effective, efficient and fully integrated transport operations and infrastructure that best meet the needs of freight and passenger users.
Another responsibility of the Department of Transport is to provide infrastructure and services in a manner that is efficient and affordable to individuals and corporate users, and also the whole economy, whilst ensuring that it provides increasing levels of safety and security across modes.
We are very clear of our strategic vision and objective of playing our part in driving our country towards being a fully developed economy.
It is common cause that no economy can thrive without developed road, rail, maritime and aviation infrastructure networks.
In line with this strategic vision, we have taken a decision to invest in necessary and critical infrastructure across all modes.
We are however under no illusion about the magnitude of the challenges that remain. One of these is to attract investment into a number of areas including the maintenance of infrastructure, the provision of new infrastructure in rural and urban areas of our country. Urban mobility and rural access are some of the key areas of focus over the medium term.
We have also realised that the demand for road and rail transport in particular, far outstrips the capacity of government to fund these needs. In this regard, it is our view that infrastructure investment which has direct economic returns that can also be monitored in terms of cost recovery and profit should be seriously considered.
Furthermore, we are embarking on a comprehensive rail upgrade that intends placing rail at the centre of our freight and commuter movement. As rail is the future backbone of our public transport system, we will over the next few years invest over R40 billion in passenger rail infrastructure and services. Our major challenge is that the bulk of our rail infrastructure has reached the end of its economic life.
New investments in new infrastructure which includes signalling and rolling stock is an absolute necessity that will go a long way in positioning rail as the mode of choice, and a reliable and efficient mass mover both in the commuter and long distance space.
Recapitalising the rail business of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) also means that we must reinvest in both the existing rail network and new lines in order to respond in a decisive way to new post-apartheid spatial and economic dynamics. A focused rail revitalisation programme will become a key activity over the medium term working with other departments in the economic cluster, and our domestic and international partners in the private sector.
The disproportionate nature of traffic between road and rail in both passenger and freight has resulted in our roads experiencing serious damage and rapidly declining before the expected lifespan.
Due to under investment in rail over a number of years, a huge burden has been placed on our roads causing major traffic congestion in our cities, with the attendant high cost of road maintenance.
The department is currently engaging PRASA and National Treasury to finalise all outstanding issues related to the acquisition of the rolling stock.
Road safety remains a key challenge facing the department and society as a whole. Since we took office in June this year, more than 63 people have died in three accidents in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape provinces.
Reducing road fatalities remains one of our priority areas of concern. Our experience to date is that roads safety campaigns must be conducted throughout the year.
We have to be more stringent in the application of regulations that regulate road transport operations, law enforcement on issues such as vehicle and driver fitness, driver hours behind the wheel and speed. The implementation of these measures must be regarded as a priority by provincial and local authorities.
Over and above this, we should also promote the culture of courtesy and tolerance on our roads. Furthermore, we should also confront the scourge of corrupt traffic officers who solicit bribes and by so doing besmirch the name of all traffic officers.
In line with this, we will be paying more attention to the following:
· The implementation of an administrative road infringement system;
· Capacity building for maintenance at district and municipal level.
Road infrastructure and GFIP
Whilst the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) matter has been before the Constitutional Court, government has continued to search for a lasting solution through the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) chaired by the His Excellency the Deputy President Kgalema Motlhanthe. The Inter Ministerial Committee has met with various stakeholders, including labour, business, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and the South African Council of Churches.
Notwithstanding the recent challenges, government is committed to finding a long term solution to finance roads infrastructure.
Rapid public transport infrastructure
It is trite and common cause that a good transport infrastructure is a driver of economic growth and development. In the past few years, significant strides have been made to improve public transport across the country, especially in metropolitan areas. Johannesburg and Cape Town attest to this.
It is important that the rollout of infrastructure is not just confined to the major urban and metropolitan areas. We have a responsibility to redress the apartheid spatial patterns.
Through the Sihamba Sonke project we envisage to speed up the creation of jobs. Consultations with the provinces are on-going; this includes the audit of roads that require maintenance. A consolidated national strategy will be completed in the near future.
Plans are also underway to engage the taxi industry to find ways to enhance the economic efficiency of the industry. The department is considering innovative ways to ensure that the taxi industry also benefits from the bus subsidies.
Maritime safety and industrial development
Maritime safety remains one of the key strategic areas of focus. The department has identified the need to upgrade the existing infrastructure along our coast to ensure the safety of life at sea. Various options are being considered to create a lasting solution.
At the same time, the department is developing a set of policies to increase investments and economic participation in the maritime shipping environment. We need to create an enabling environment for South Africans to participate actively in the entire value chain of the shipping business and industry. In this respect, the Department will launch a Green Paper on Maritime Shipping.
Strategic infrastructure programme
The department is one of the key participants in the Strategic infrastructure programme driven by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission. A number of critical infrastructure investments will be led by the Department of Transport.
These include the development of the Durban-Free State-Gauteng logistics corridor, and unlocking economic opportunities in the North West province. Given the economic spin offs of these and other infrastructure investments, we will keep stakeholders informed of the progress made.
Policy and legislation
To consolidate the position of the transport sector as one of the key drivers of infrastructure development, we will also undertake various legislative reviews. This will also help us enhance policy and regulatory certainty thus creating a conducive climate for local and international investments.
Our legislative programme will amongst others seek to strengthen the institutional capacity of our SOEs and regulators to deliver services, improve safety and security of our people, reduce pollution and harmonise the delivery of services across the transport value chain. During the current financial year, we will fast track the development of the rail, maritime and civil aviation policies and laws. The following laws will also be amended during the same period:
I. Oil Pollution Act
II. National Land Transport Act
III. Road Traffic Act
At the institutional level, that is, the department and the twelve entities under the remit of the Department of Transport, we will move with speed to fill existing vacancies. We will further expedite the appointment of the Board of the Civil Aviation Authority as well as resolve outstanding issues related to the appointment of the CEO of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
Regulatory framework and institutional capacity
As transport is one of the most regulated industries in the economy, regulation becomes important for a number of reasons, including promoting efficiency, safety of citizens, effective competition, provision of quality and affordable services.
At the moment there are several regulators involved in the transport industry, and overlaps have been noted in terms of their mandates.
In order to streamline the regulatory model, the department is investigating a new model which may entail merging various regulators. The outcome of this will be informed by studies being undertaken. This will also allow us to harmonise the regulation of tariffs across the transport industry, drawing lessons from established practices in energy, water and communications.
Other infrastructure initiatives
Other projects in the pipeline include is the positioning of the Port of Nqgura as the transhipment hub, and the development of a uniform national policy on scholar transport.
With regard to international relations, we will continue to implement our regional, continental and global commitments to facilitate the growth and development of the transport sector. Amongst others, the department, together with the DTI and other departments in the economics cluster, will work together to implement the North-South corridor initiative which will enable easy movement of people and goods across the continent. We will participate in this initiative in accordance with the mandate bestowed by the African Union on President Zuma to champion the development of infrastructure across the continent.
As part of our endeavour to highlight the issues of safety and the importance of transport in the economic and social development of our country, October has been declared Transport Month. This allows all stakeholders in the transport industry to showcase their achievements while remaining focused to respond to outstanding challenges.
In October 2012, we will highlight issues pertaining to transport across the value chain and also create a heightened awareness of road safety in view of the tragic loss of life on our roads.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In addition to the provision of key and urgent infrastructure, the department remains a force in driving government led job creation projects.
In conclusion, I wish to invite all stakeholders and the public to work with us.
Province Or State