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HomeNewsWhy Sanral is gunning to take over 10,000km of South Africa’s most important roads

Why Sanral is gunning to take over 10,000km of South Africa’s most important roads

At the recent opening of the refurbished R23 in Mpumalanga, transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga urged provinces to transfer control of key routes to the National Roads Agency (Sanral).

Doing so will ensure that these roads are better managed and maintained than what the municipal governments are capable of doing, as well as relieve pressure from the local authorities, the minister told Newzroom Afrika.

The provinces themselves must identify strategic roads that can be classified as national routes, which include any road that connects two provinces, a road between two cities, and roads that lead to heritage sites.

Following a written application to Sanral, the agency will assess whether the roads can be upgraded to national road status and if so, it will take control of them.

The Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga have started taking action in this regard as several of them have already submitted proposals to Sanral, with Gauteng considering following suit, said the agency.

“In provinces that [have transferred control], those provinces are construction sites thanks to Sanral,” said the minister.

“Eastern Cape is one example where you’ll find a lot of construction that is happening in the province and it is Sanral that is doing that, and would want to do that with other provinces as well.”

At present, Sanral is responsible for managing and maintaining approximately 23,000km of primarily intercity and economic roads across the nation.

In its 2022 condition assessment, the agency admitted that around 8% of the roads under its jurisdiction were in poor to very poor condition, but that the vast majority were satisfactory.

It’s for this reason that roads leading up to towns and cities are generally in a good state, but once inside the metro they are dilapidated, said the minister.

A fiscal cliff

Despite the ambitious plans to rid South Africa’s vital corridors of potholes and crime, Sanral indicated in its Annual Performance Plan for the 2023/24 financial year that it will only be able to support an additional 3,000km of roads unless it receives upwards of R15 billion in funding per annum for the next 10 years should the option of toll funding not be available.

“Sanral has reached a stage where it needs to take rational and prudent decisions regarding network growth, the provision of support to other road authorities, and the incorporation of roads from other spheres of government,” said the report.

“Horizon 2030 proposes a review of the proposed road transfers from provinces to Sanral if Sanral’s budget is not commensurately increased, from the original additional 15,000km to only 3,000km.”

Sanral noted that it has “reached a fiscal cliff” in balancing network growth against insufficient funds, as illustrated by the below graph:

“The agency does not have the financial and human capital to take over the management of such a large network of roads,” it said.

“A reduction in the kilometres of roads earmarked for transfer will result in a more sustainable national road network of 25,000km with an increased budget per kilometre, as indicated in the above graph.”

It is currently unclear where the additional monies will come from should Sanral receive the 10,000km of roads that were identified as being transferrable.

It has indicated that it is not averse to private funding but that it will have to be handled much better than the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) – referring to the ongoing e-toll debacle.

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