Mbalula Outlines 2021/22 Transport Priorities

21ST MAY 2021


BY: TASNEEM BULBULIA

CREAMER MEDIA REPORTER


The Department of Transport’s expenditure is expected to increase at an average yearly rate of 8.1%, from R57.3-billion in 2020/21 to R72.5-billion in 2023/24, Minister Fikile Mbalula said during the virtual debate on the transport budget vote on May 21.


He said the majority of the funds were reserved for the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) for the upgrading and maintenance of the national road network; as well as provinces and municipalities for the construction, operations and maintenance of transport infrastructure and services.


Spending on compensation for employees decreases at an average yearly rate of 0.3%, from R536.8-million in 2020/21 to R531.5-million in 2023/24. Spending on goods and services is expected to increase at an average yearly rate of 2.3% from R849-million in 2020/21 to R909.7-million in 2023/24.


Allocations to the civil aviation programme are expected to decrease at a yearly rate of 50.8%, from R2.7-billion in 2020/21 to R319.2-million in 2023/24 owing to the capitalisation of Airports Company South Africa, which needed support owing to travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic, Mbalula indicated.


In terms of the industrial policy and positioning the country as a continental manufacturing hub for rail rolling stock, Mbalula highlighted that the Gibela factory, in Ekurhuleni, continues to ramp up its production capacity.


As at March 31, 25 new trains had been provisionally accepted for delivery, bringing the total number of new trains delivered to date to 61, he said.


PRIORITY RAIL CORRIDORS

Mbalula said the department had identified several rail corridors as a priority for service recovery this financial year.


In Gauteng, it has prioritised Mabopane to Pretoria, Leralla to Johannesburg, Naledi to Johannesburg, Pienaarspoort to Pretoria, Saulsville to Pretoria, Pretoria to Kaalfontein and Daveyton to Johannesburg routes.


In the Western Cape, it has prioritised Cape Town to Cape Flats, Cape Town to Simonstown and Cape Town to Khayelitsha and Kaapteinsklip routes. In KwaZulu-Natal, it has prioritised Crossmoor Line, Kelso Line, KwaMashu/Bridge City and Umlazi Line. In the Eastern Cape, it has prioritised the East London to Berlin line.


For the Mainline Passenger Services, it has prioritised Johannesburg to Cape Town, Johannesburg to Gqeberha, Johannesburg to East London, Johannesburg to Komatipoort, Johannesburg to Musina, Cape Town to East London and Johannesburg to Durban.


INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES

Mbalula mentioned that Covid-19 restrictions exposed the vulnerability of the country’s network, with settlements built along rail tracks and inside the reserves, while the destruction, theft and vandalism of infrastructure continued.


He noted that on the Central Line in Cape Town, work was under way to upgrade infrastructure to enable the deployment of the new trains.


Mbalula said limited service was resumed earlier in the year, but was hampered by settlements. He is confident, however, that collaborative work to resettle people will be completed soon, so that work to restore the infrastructure upgrades and restore the rail service can also be completed.


Mbalula further said that work was ongoing to ensure that all infrastructure projects are completed on time for the full resumption of service with the deployment of new trains by the end of January 2022.


He mentioned that infrastructure updates were under way on the Mabopane corridor, with completion of Phase 1 to enable the resumption of limited service at the end of November, and full service slated for early December.


Transfers to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) amount to R57-billion, accounting for an estimated 27.2% of the department’s budget over the medium term, Mbalula noted. He said delays in the rolling stock renewable programme, and poor spending on rail infrastructure and the effects of the pandemic, necessitated the reprioritisation of funds to support other transport sector entities.


Therefore, PRASA had received no transfers from the department in 2020/21 for the programme. The reprioritisation included a R2.3-billion capitalisation of Airports Company South Africa and the R1.1-billion one-off gratuity to the taxi industry in 2020/21.


ROAD SAFETY

Concerning road safety, Mbalula noted progress on plans to make changes to traffic policing. Consultations with provinces, law enforcement authorities and organised labour have been finalised. The outstanding step is for each provincial executive council to approve the determination.


He also mentioned that the department had started the process of looking into the possibility of streamlining and rationalising its road traffic entities. Also, it is focusing on resolving challenges at driving licence testing centres nationwide. Some measures agreed on include longer operating hours, the use of technology and introducing an online interface for eye test results.


Over the medium term, R215-million has been allocation to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency to fund the roll-out of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto). Mbalula said Aarto is on track for nationwide roll-out on July 1.


Meanwhile, the Minister said claims against the Road Accident Fund (RAF) increased at an average yearly rate of 8.4%, from R61.3-billion in 2017/18 to R78.2-billion in 2020/21, and are expected to increase to R102.9-billion in 2023/24. As a result, the accumulated deficit is expected to increase to R518.7-billion in 2023/24.


The most significant change going into the 2021/22 financial year is the new RAF operating model, which is a new approach to the investigation, settlement and litigation of claims, said Mbalula.


The public transport network grant allocations are expected to increase at an average yearly rate of 15.7% over the medium term, from R4.4-billion in 2020/21 to R6.8-billion in 2023/24.


The first roll-out of the integrated single ticket for public transport will unfold during the course of the year in several cities, Mbalula said.


He also mentioned that he had appointed a six-member panel to facilitate dialogue with all parties in the taxi industry. The panel has been tasked to work with all parties in the industry to tackle the challenge of unity and leadership.


The taxi recapitalising programme pace has been very slow, Mbalula noted, and work will be undertaken with the industry to unlock bottlenecks.


The department is also intensifying its efforts to implement a shift from road to rail, for both passengers and freight, with two corridors identified for concessioning. He also mentioned that work must be undertaken to ensure South Africa can join the countries that accept the International Air Transport Association mobile travel pass.


The speech was met with mixed reaction, with some opposition parties rejecting it and others approving it.


Speakers for the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance decried a lack of a tangible progress, and especially highlighted the slow roll-out of PRASA’s modernisation, as well as the state of the RAF.

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