05 April 2019

Roads that are not properly and timeously
maintained are costing South Africa millions of rands, as well as negatively
affecting the economy and society, says South African Road Federation (SARF) president Saied Solomons.

South Africa’s road network comprises about 750 000
km, of which 158 124 km are paved roads and 591 876 km gravel roads. In 2014,
the value of the country’s road network was estimated at around R2-trillion.

“Our focus is geared towards the economic and
social imperatives of proper road maintenance, of which the environment is an
important part,” Solomons said on Thursday, which was also International Road
Maintenance Day.

He highlighted that “roads are a vital public
asset” and can deliver a higher economic return on investment than any other
type of infrastructure.

However, he lamented that South Africa’s physical
road network is likely to require billions of rands to restore if maintenance
is not taken seriously.

“The real cost of not maintaining roads is
difficult to quantify because poor roads are dangerous and affect road
safety; they lead to higher transportation costs and bottlenecks on busy
routes; they prevent people from accessing goods and essential services;
they increase vehicle operating costs [owing] to frequent repairs and
require more fuel use; and they increase carbon dioxide emissions,”
Solomons elaborated.

If done on time, maintenance can extend the
structural life of a road. However, if this does not take place, he warned that
the road deteriorates rapidly and instead of road maintenance, road
rehabilitation is required, making costs soar.

Solomons urged all South African road authorities
to prioritise road maintenance.

“A proper pavement management system should be used
to identify areas where maintenance is required, in order to prioritise and
action projects. This will preserve the road network and extend the life of a
road,” he suggested, adding that the design life of a road is between 15 and 20
years, although this is dependent on consistent monitoring to identify
potential issues and undertaking appropriate maintenance as required.

While some South African road authorities have
lamented the challenge of competence and skills, Solomons stated that these can
“far more easily” be dealt with than declining road conditions.

“Dealing with road maintenance across our 750 000 km network will help avoid a debt burden on future generations,” Solomons stated.

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