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HomeNewsAverage speed of 40km/h and more – Here are South Africa’s new plans for road users

Average speed of 40km/h and more – Here are South Africa’s new plans for road users

The draft National Public Transport Subsidy Policy has been gazetted, detailing the government’s upcoming plans to improve South Africa’s transport systems.

While the policy is intended to address the nation’s public transport systems, the improvements are anticipated to make commuting easier for all road users, with an uptick in average speeds and lower travel times even at peak traffic periods.

The draft policy is available to the public for comment until 31 March.

Addressing South Africa’s transport problems

South Africa currently allocates just 0.76% of its gross domestic product (GDP) expenditure on public transport subsidies, but spends roughly 12% of its GDP on transport-related costs, compared to the average of 7% spent by countries with comparable transport systems, according to Engineering News.

The majority of these subsidies (56%) go towards rail despite the multiple issues associated with the service, while buses receive around 43%, and it is estimated that the subsidies only reach about 1.6% of the population.

Broken down even further, the current subsidies only benefit 7.4% of people who rely entirely on public transport, 2.4% of the workforce, and 2.3% of general commuters, claimed Future of Transport Consulting CEO Darko Skribensik, who is a member of the policy drafting team.

While public transport subsidies have existed in South Africa for decades, there have never been guidelines for how these subsidies should be allocated, leading to inefficiencies and the potential for mismanagement across the system.

Illustrating this point, the National Treasury’s most common questions to the Department of Transport include why specific amounts for certain subsidies were required, how these amounts were arrived at, and what the rationale was for the expenditure.

The new policy addresses this by requiring that capital funding be allocated on the basis of area or regional planning and that these plans must contribute towards national transport objectives.

The agents responsible for these plans will be municipalities, following a Constitutional Court ruling that deemed it unconstitutional for municipalities not to have authority over the transport services in their jurisdiction.

The subsidies are primarily intended to benefit poorer communities, and one of the proposed ideas in the draft is to create a virtual wallet system that can only be used by individuals to pay for public transport.

It’s important to note that the policy does not stipulate specific types of transport; rather it requires that municipalities “develop integrated transport plans across different and suitable modes of transport to achieve specific transport objectives.”

To make these plans a reality, the government will introduce an accountability system that awards subsidies based on the achievement of targets, thereby replacing the decades-old system that allocated funds based on prior allocations.

“The policy aims to support finance for specific goals in an outcomes-based plan. The subsidy is aimed at achieving what is needed in the mobility network,” said drafting member Dr Mathetha Mokonyama.

To support these plans, the draft policy recommends that South Africa’s funding for public transport should increase to 5% of its GDP.

Another goal outlined in the policy is to achieve an average speed of between 30-40km/h for commuters across various types of transport, even during rush hour.

Mokonyama noted that accomplishing this goal will require not just an improvement to the country’s public transport such as buses or taxis, but to the road network as a whole, which should improve the travel experience for other motorists as well.

Additionally, as public transport services improve, they will become a more popular option for commuters which should reduce the number of private cars on the road and improve traffic conditions at peak times.

To ensure that public transport is an appealing option, the government also wants to introduce quality control in the form of “measurable outcomes”, though the exact details of these plans will be elaborated upon at a later date.

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