A NEW infrastructure programme to transform South Africa’s cities was officially launched on Friday.
Officiating at the event in Kempton Park, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi said the objective was to turn large cities into sustainable human settlements. Another aim was to integrate public transport with urban planning.
The plan — officially known as Strategic Integrated Infrastructure Project 7 (SIP7) — is one of 17 programmes approved by the Cabinet earlier this year, each with a different focus area of infrastructure.
“The implementation of this programme over the next 20 years will not only change this country’s landscape, (but also) create much-needed jobs,” Mr Baloyi told reporters.
It is also meant to expand service delivery in the country and develop skills in engineering and project management. A five-year road map and implementation plan will be developed.
“The train has taken off. Let’s all be on it,” Mr Baloyi said.
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said: “This is about placing infrastructure at the heart of urban planning, development and growth.”
Investing in infrastructure could also support manufacturing, he said, adding that expanding South African steel manufacturing would be vital in ensuring construction projects had sufficient steel supplies.
The new programme brings together initiatives in various cities, including rail service improvements. Some of these, such as Johannesburg’s bus rapid transport system, are already under way.
Lucky Montana, head of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), said 42% of South Africans lived in the 12 largest urban areas — Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekhurhuleni, Cape Town, eThekwini, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City, Mbombela, Rustenburg, Polokwane and Msunduzi.
Within the next two decades, 70% of South Africa’s population are expected to live in these areas, which already account for 70% of the country’s gross domestic product.
“We need to ensure that we deliver infrastructure that is able to meet our needs for the next 20 years,” Mr Montana said.
Prasa is the supporting parastatal for the programme.
Passenger rail services and other forms of public transport are at the heart of the programme, which co-ordinates several initiatives at a city level. Some of these initiatives, such as the replacement of all train signalling equipment in Gauteng, are already under way, said Mr Montana.
Prasa plans to expand rail links to underserved communities, such as Motherwell outside Port Elizabeth. This rail link will, in its second phase, be expanded to Coega and Ngqura, the site of major economic development.
Bus rapid transit networks, roads, bicycle lanes, pedestrian walkways and investments in water, sanitation and stormwater drainage also form part of the project.
Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin, who also attended the launch, said SIP7 aimed to overcome the spatial legacy of apartheid, as well as a failure to reinvest in transport.
Previously, infrastructure had been used to divide communities. “Infrastructure was not used as a connector, but as a separator,” he said.
Railway lines separated black from coloured communities in Cape Town, and freeways were used to seal off townships.
“This is not just about a series of projects that must be on time,” Mr Cronin said. Rather, it was about evaluating whether projects were beginning to overcome economic dysfunction.
“Millions of South Africans are battling to get to work, or even look for work, because they are isolated in settlements that were built too far away,” he added.
SIP7 initiatives would “change the life experiences of ordinary South Africans”, said Mr Cronin.
Planners had been instructed to focus on projects that would serve as catalysts for further development, rather than “nice-to-haves”.
“All our cities face similar problems, but also dissimilar challenges and advantages,” he said, adding that cities should be accessible, safe and secure enough for even a seven-year-old child.
“We’re miles away. But our infrastructure needs to move in that direction,” Mr Cronin said.
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=171621