The number of national and provincial roads in ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ condition is more than double what it was ten years ago, and the number of the same roads in ‘good’ and ‘very good’ condition is a third of what it was ten years ago. These are some of the key findings made in a new research report released by the Automobile Association of South Africa today.
The report, a review of road conditions and funding in South Africa, was prepared for the AA by well-known civil engineer and roads specialist, Dr John Sampson, and assesses the road network over the last 20 years. South Africa has a total of 596 000km of roads, and the replacement value of the country’s road network is estimated to be R1.047 trillion.
“The findings are very worrying,” said AASA Head of Public Affairs, Rob Handfield - Jones. “South Africa’s roads need R100 billion spent on them to eliminate maintenance backlogs, and current levels of funding are only a quarter of what is needed to maintain the country’s road network into the future,” he said.
The AA said that inadequate road maintenance also resulted in an increase in traffic crashes. “The report shows that about 60% of national or provincial roads are in poor or very poor condition, compared to about 22% in 1998,” said Handfield - Jones. “It goes on to say that the cost of operating a vehicle on poor roads is double that of good roads in terms of fuel, maintenance, delays and crashes.”
Road conditions for the report were assessed using the Visual Condition Index (VCI). VCI expresses the condition of a road from 0 (very poor, requires reconstruction) to 100 (very good). The overall VCI for South Africa’s roads dropped from 65 in 1998 to 46 in 2008. “What this means is that vast portions of South Africa’s road network are in danger of becoming so badly damaged that they will no longer be able to be repaired, and the government will be forced to reconstruct them,” said Handfield - Jones. “The report clearly shows that, in the long term, regular annual maintenance which prevents road deterioration costs approximately a quarter of allowing a road to be run into the ground and then re-constructing it,” he added.
The AA called on government to increase funding to secure the viability of the road transport industry and reduce the number of crashes. “The report states that we need R32Bn per annum to keep our roads in good shape, which is 1.5% of GDP,” said Handfield - Jones. “This is far less that the cost of traffic crashes, unnecessary road reconstruction and losses by the transport industry resulting from poor roads,” he added. “If we don’t get serious about road maintenance now, in 30 years we might not have any sealed roads left to maintain,” he concluded.