The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on the road accidents statistics over the festive season as part of the Arrive Alive campaign. The presentation also included a brief overview of the Strategic Plan for the year 2002/03. The plan highlighted the Department's projects and priorities over the period and a central theme expressed by the officials was that the department was under-funded and that if this situation was not remedied, the country's transport system, especially public transport, would face a crisis within the next few years.
Mr S Msikinya: Director General, Department of Transport, outlined a broad overview of the Departmentís strategic plan for the incoming financial year. The budgetary allocation for the new financial year is R3, 8 billion; R35, 9 m for Policy or Strategy, R3, 7 billion for Public Transport, R25 million for Transport Planning as well as R39, 7 million for the Urban Transport Fund.
Arrive Alive, Projects for Road Safety and Road Traffic Management
Mr S Khumalo, a Departmental representative, briefed the Committee on Arrive Alive, Projects for Road Safety and Road Traffic Management. According to the statistics for the December 2001 holiday season, Gauteng had the highest accidents rate, followed by Kwazulu-Natal whilst the Western Cape and Mpumalanga where almost on par. Generally fatalities per crash have gradually decreased as compared to the 2000/01 December holiday season. Per province, there is a small decline in fatalities in crashes as is the case in Gauteng whereas in Mpumalanga this has increased slightly.
Passengers and pedestrians were the most affected by these crashes. Motor vehicles instead of mini-bus taxis, as is commonly perceived, are the biggest causes of fatal crashes. The fatality rate per vehicle has also seen a significant decrease in the case of buses whereas in trucks it has probably increased as a result of the Mpumalanga truck accident where 62 people were killed when it overturned.
The most regular times when accidents occurred were over weekends on Friday nights/Saturday mornings and on Saturday nights/ Sunday mornings. Factors influencing this included the consumption of alcohol as people are generally in a partying mood as well as late night/early morning speeding and fatigue.
In respect the Road to Safety Campaign the Department had established the Road to Safety Hub, which is made up of priority areas allocated personnel to work on them as independent but interrelated projects. These areas include amongst others driver fitness, vehicle fitness, fraud and corruption, arrive alive and so forth. With regard to driver fitness, the identified remedy is to upgrade the testing centres and testing techniques.
Secondly, the upgrading of the K53 learner's manual and the computerisation of learner's tests to curb the corrupt elements in the system is also being prioritised. With regard to vehicle fitness, improvements include safety interventions through the creation of a secure vehicle identification system.
The third area; fraud and corruption, apparently affects both learner testing and driver licensing. This will be tackled through the creation of a driver-training centre, which will give proper training to new and old drivers in regular intervals for the award or renewal of licenses. Another area identified in this programme is pedestrian safety where in this regard structures will be created for community mobilisation, involvement and education. A second measure would be the introduction of visible clothing for pedestrians walking at night.
With regard to the Arrive Alive Campaign, Mr Khumalo informed the Committee that the campaign would in the near future be carried out through the mobilisation of joint/harmonised law-enforcement and communication programmes. Another new venture here, he pointed out, is the development of an annual calendar of the Arrive Alive Campaign activities, thus transforming it into a year-round campaign.
In the area of fleet operations management, there is a need to develop and introduce an operator's code of conduct/practice for mass carriers, improved regulation and self-regulation as well as the regulation of driving hours for public carriers. In the area of traffic information systems, he pointed out that a new information system would be enhanced by the creation of new ways of vehicle licensing and registration, Provincial and National Accident Bureaus, the National Help Desk as well as the redesigning of the Accident Report form. A National Traffic Information Centre will also be established, which will provide the general public with a facility at which unfit and reckless and negligent driver behaviour, unfit vehicles, fraud and corruption can be reported. The last area here is that of professionalism in the traffic fraternity. Under this programme, the development of a new professional qualification and examination system is a priority. A second aspect would be the establishment of a work ethic and integrity amongst the officers.
Mr T Pere, a Departmental representative, briefed the Committee on the issue of aviation concerns within the Department. In this regard he identified several issues mainly around the construction of airports in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal. On the issue of the La Mecy Airport (KZN), he pointed out that the ACSA board and the Minister of Transport had already approved the transfer of the Durban Airport to La Mecy. This has also been agreed to by the KZN government and is expected to materialise in 2006.
On the Hazyview Airport (Mpumalanga) issue, the stakeholders took the government to court because there were two sites vying for the awarding of the airport with only one license now confirmed for award whereas this was not the case before. These sites are above-mentioned Hazyview and Primklip respectively. At the latest possible notice, the Provincial government was still discussing the matter for resolution.
With regard to the issue of the third airport in Gauteng, two sites were running for the awarding, these are Springs in Johannesburg and Wonderboom in Pretoria. The Gauteng Transport Department, as well as the various stakeholders, were still to make a decision on the matter at the latest possible time.
Mr Mokokoane, a Departmental representative, made the presentation on the Department's Policy Strategy and Implementation or the 2002/03 Strategic Plan. On the Departmentís performance in the financial year 2001/02, he pointed out that amongst other things, the Department had drafted a long-term policy framework for managing its ports. Here he made the example of the Ports Regulation Bill as well as the Ports Construction Bill. The Department had also completed a Rail Safety Regulator Bill to establish a rail regulator to look after the safety of the rail system as a means of transport.
The department has successfully completed the democratisation process of the taxi industry and was now busy with the finalisation of the formalisation or recapitalisation process for the industry. The Department had also supported and guided provinces like the North West, Northern Province and the Free State in the recapitalisation of the parastatal bus companies.
Plans and priorities for the department in the 2002/03 financial year include:
-The implementation of the railway line extension in Khayelitsha.
-The finalisation of a feasibility study for the reopening of the Hammanskraal line, workshopping provinces and supporting them on the rollout of transport plans.
-Reviewing and implementation of short-term measures for public transport subsidizing.
Mr Mokokoane also highlighted key projects for the department which include, the finalisation of a strategy for special needs transport, the completion of a rail policy and plan framework, the establishment of a rail safety regulator and the development of a Public Transport Policy Framework amongst others. The Department had also set aside R25 million for a transport planning strategy for each province where each province got an extra R2 million on top of the previously allocated amount of R1 million.
Mr Mosang outlined the budgetary challenges facing the Department, noting that about 90% of the Department's budget was being spent on public transport and the road infrastructure. A challenge for the Department is how to increase the involvement of the private sector in supporting the transport system. The bulk of the Department's budget allocation goes to the subsidising of public transport.
One of the major concerns for the Department was the capacity rate within the Department, which had been low at around 67%. Currently this has improved to about 80%. Lastly, equity targets had also been achieved within a short period of time.
Mr J Slabbert (IFP) asked how children who use bicycles are referred to, especially in terms of accidents statistics?
Mr Khumalo responded that they were categorised as cyclists.
Mr G Schneemann (ANC) commented that on the N1 between Cape Town and Johannesburg during the holidays, traffic police were hardly visible. Why was this? He also pointed out that in Kwazulu-Natal South Coast pedestrians and stray animals were in and around the highway across the rural areas there, but this was dangerous and something should be done about it.
Mr S Khumalo said that the holiday issue that as part of the Arrive Alive campaign, they had also observed that there was a lack of presence on the roads especially on the N1 between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The establishment of the Road Traffic Management Centre would help in setting up a more visible Traffic Police force.
Mr E Magubane (ANC) asked what kind of license the Department issues to bus drivers as they drive all sorts of vehicle and some 'graduate' from driving a tractor to driving a bus.
Mr Khumalo said that there are categories for drivers of buses which would be normally a license for code 10, 11 or 14.
Mr J Slabbert (IFP) asked whether the calls to the new call centre would be prosecuted?
On the issue of the call centre, Mr Khumalo noted that the idea behind it is not to prosecute offenders as such, but to show people/ drivers that they are being closely watched with regard to the adherence to rules of the road.
Mr J Seremane (DP) asked who was responsible for erecting fences around tarred roads in the light of accidents due to stray animals in the rural areas.
Mr Khumalo said that responsibility originally lied with the authority responsible for the road especially in the former homelands, but currently these roads generally have an overriding authority/ownership crisis.
Mr R Ainslie (ANC) asked whether 2006 is the scheduled opening of the new airport or the starting of construction in LaMecy?
Mr. G Schneemann (ANC) voiced his concern over the issue of Lanseria Airport about the way the owners are selling land around it for commercial purposes. Was the Department consulting with the owners on the issue?
Mr Pere responded on the LaMecy issue that the relocation and not the construction would be in 2006,meaning that the facility would be ready for use by then.
On the issue concerning Lanseria, he pointed out that the Department is of the view that (legally and otherwise) an airport should not be a stand-alone entity but should be linked to an Industrial Development Project (IDP). He acknowledged that he was not very sure about the developments referred to here and would investigate and then report back to the Committee.