Roads that are not properly and timeously maintained are costing South Africa millions of rands, as well as negatively affecting the economy and society, says South African Road Federation (SARF) president Saied Solomons.
Solomons is also the CEO of the Southern African Bitumen Association.
South Africa’s road network comprises about 750 000 km, of which 158 124 km are paved roads and 591 876 km gravel roads. In 2014, the value of the country’s road network was estimated at around R2-trillion.
“Our focus is geared towards the economic and social imperatives of proper road maintenance, of which the environment is an important part,” Solomons said on Thursday, which was also International Road Maintenance Day.
He highlighted that “roads are a vital public asset” and can deliver a higher economic return on investment than any other type of infrastructure.
However, he lamented that South Africa’s physical road network is likely to require billions of rands to restore if maintenance is not taken seriously.
“The real cost of not maintaining roads is difficult to quantify because poor roads are dangerous and affect road safety; they lead to higher transportation costs and bottlenecks on busy routes; they prevent people from accessing goods and essential services; they increase vehicle operating costs [owing] to frequent repairs and require more fuel use; and they increase carbon dioxide emissions,” Solomons elaborated.
If done on time, maintenance can extend the structural life of a road. However, if this does not take place on time, he warned that the road deteriorates rapidly and instead of road maintenance, road rehabilitation is required, making costs soar.
Solomons urged all South African road authorities to prioritise road maintenance.
“A proper pavement management system should be used to identify areas where maintenance is required, in order to prioritise and action projects. This will preserve the road network and extend the life of a road,” he suggested, adding that the design life of a road is between 15 and 20 years, although this is dependent on consistent monitoring to identify potential issues and undertaking appropriate maintenance as required.
While some South African road authorities have lamented the challenge of competence and skills, Solomons stated that these can “far more easily” be dealt with than declining road conditions.
“Dealing with road maintenance across our 750 000 km network will help avoid a debt burden on future generations,” Solomons stated.