Creecy commits to fixing SA transport

SNA NEWS

The South African transport sector is not working as it should, but the new South African government is committed to addressing the nation’s many, serious transport challenges over the next five years – and is already making good progress.

This was the message from new South African Minister of Transport Barbara Creecy, in one of her first official appearances since being appointed.

Creecy was delivering the opening address at the 42nd Southern African Transport Conference (SATC), which opened in Pretoria today. This year’s conference theme is “Upskilling and Reskilling the Transport Industry for Current and Future Challenges”.

“This sector is not operating as either an effective economic facilitator or as a proper social service,” said Creecy. “The condition of our roads, logistical and capacity issues affecting our freight network and road safety are just a few of the problems that have plagued the sector in recent times.”

Creecy noted that when the country’s transport systems suffer, its economy faces depressed economic growth, declining investment, and makes it hard for working people to get to their jobs affordably or on time.

“Our roads and rail networks are arteries of our nation, and should move people and goods safely, speedily and affordably across the length and breadth of our country, and facilitate our connectivity with Africa and the broader world,” said Creecy.

Creecy said there had already been progress towards addressing national transport challenges. A major development was the establishment last year of the National Logistics Crisis Committee, chaired by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, and the adoption by cabinet of the Freight Logistics Roadmap.

Creecy said the NLCC was continuing reforms at Transnet to return the entity to pre-pandemic performance levels. She said Prasa was continuing to reopen passenger rail lines affected by infrastructure damage and cable theft, with 28 of 40 priority lines now fully functional.

Creecy said that, as of March this year, 256 stations were functional in cities across the country, and that continuous work was being done to open up more strategic commuter and rail corridors, as part of the rail policy approved by cabinet in 2023.

Another transport priority identified by Creecy was road safety.

“We cannot normalise a situation in which more than 12 000 people are killed on our roads every year,” she said. “Nor can our country continue to sustain the cost of more than 10 000 fatal crashes, which the Road Traffic Management Corporation estimates cost R186 billion or 3% of the South African GDP every year. We must ensure the country’s roads are safer for those who use them.”

She also undertook to work with the taxi sector, which carries an estimated 80% of all South Africans using public transport.

“I pledge to ensure it takes its place in a safer, greener transport ecosystem,” she said. “We must work together to decrease levels of conflict and violence which pose a significant risk to the sector and to commuters.”

Acknowledging the skills-development theme of the conference, Creecy noted that transport was in the midst of one of the greatest changes since the introduction of the automobile – thanks to evolutions in digital technology and renewable energy.

The Department of Transport Green Transport Strategy can ensure that our development objectives are not at odds with our climate change mitigation laws,” she said. “Implementation of this strategy will be a priority for this next term of government in an era of hyper globalisation.” Another priority is the finalisation of the long outstanding strategy on devolution of urban commuter rail services.

Creecy also shared a vision for the country to make the most of its location as a gateway to Africa, as well as its geopolitical relationships through BRICS and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

“New technologies and new global imperatives will fundamentally alter the skills required in the transport sector,” concluded Creecy. “But equally importantly, they will open up new industries, new opportunities and new forms of economic access, ownership and employment.”

South African Minister of Transport Barbara Creecy