The current backlog for road development, rehabilitation and maintenance in South Africa has been estimated at R75-billion by the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Framework – a whopping R37-billion more than the R38-billion backlog reported in the Road Infrastructure Strategic Framework for South Africa in 2005.
Speaking at a recent infrastructure dialogue, Development Bank of Southern Africa transport specialist Peter Copley said that, in order to deal with the challenge, the country would need to double its roads- related expenditure, with 85% of that budget needed purely for rehabilitation.
However, while funding was the key constraint, a further problem related to the fact that some 140 000 km of road currently fell under no particular authority and was, thus, being left unattended by all spheres of government.
Three main sources for road funding were highlighted during the dialogue, namely road tolling for roads that carry a yearly average of more than 4 000 vehicles a day, the general tax base for municipal roads and a fuel levy for roads with a dual purpose.
Government’s proposed response to the road financing challenge is the creation of a road fund. But if this were to be funded purely through a levy on fuel, it would require doubling the fuel price.
“The fuel levy is currently one-third of the fuel pump price. This levy raises R20-billion a year, which the National Treasury allocates back to road-based transport, such as the bus subsidy, taxi recapitalisation, the commuter rail subsidy as well as road infrastructure,” Copley said.
However, despite this accumulation of funds, the demand generated by the National Department of Transport alone is R25-billion a year.
Copley says that the refurbishment of the Mpumalanga coal roads could be facilitated by a R100 shadow toll on each coal delivery truck that enters into a power station. This could yield R30-billion over a 15-year period.
The South African National Roads Agency Limited’s Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project tolling system, which will charge R0,50 for light vehicles and R4,50 for heavy vehicles, could raise another R48-billion, and help clear part of the R75-billion backlog.
However, there is no concrete funding plan for the remaining 725 000 km of road in the country, and Copley suggests that new thinking is required to deal with the backlog.