By Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works:
It is an honour to be here today to open the much-awaited Blanco Road here in George. This R105 million project has been 15 months in the making, with work having begun in February 2014. This road will have far-reaching economic benefits for this region, serving to connect the Herold’s Bay area, to George and surrounds.
This project has indeed been a test of our delivery capabilities – a test that we have passed with flying colours. Construction covered a total 19.22kms, and has included reseal and structural work, culvert extension, and even the construction of a new bridge. The socio-economic need for this project is demonstrated in, amongst other things, how much traffic this road has to carry. Studies show that on any given day, this road will be used by some 3562 vehicles, of which 188 are heavy vehicles. These are indeed high traffic volumes for a road that was last refurbished in 1992, 23 years ago.
Empowerment has played a huge role in this project, with 38 983 person days of labour created, all sourced locally, with 25% taken up by women. Over R8.2 million has been spent on local labour, with close to R2 million spent on the appointment of a local emerging contractor. Local sub-contractor Qualcon Civils CC was awarded the emerging contractor tender for the channelling and drainage works during the project, with Baseline, the main contractor, providing mentorship to this emerging contractor. The effect of this road construction should, in this way, be felt in the area for years to come.
In 1066, William the Conqueror observed that, “My country was never so rich it could afford bad roads”. Although not as far back as that, I too have long maintained that roads are an integral and essential part of the wider transport system. A country’s road network should be efficient in order to maximize economic and social benefits. Roads play a significant role in achieving national development and contributing to the overall performance and social functioning of the community. It is acknowledged that roads enhance mobility, taking people out of isolation and poverty by increasing access to economic opportunities. For this reason, any nation seeking real development must prioritise transport and roads as the main stimulant for development in various other sectors.
Our department has not shied away from this challenge. In keeping with our vision to lead in the delivery of government infrastructure and related services, our unyielding mission remains to deliver infrastructure and services to promote socio-economic outcomes and safe, empowered and connected communities. We will undoubtedly continue to create opportunities for growth and jobs, as is our commitment under Provincial Strategic Goal 1 (PSG 1).
Our R2.77 billion budgetary allocation for road construction and maintenance in this financial year alone, 2015/2016, is testament to how much value we place on this crucial asset. Of the just over 32 000 kms of provincial road, 20% is surfaced but this 20% carries 95% of all traffic. Our roads are an asset with an approximate value of R68 billion and are consumed over time.
With the project having now been completed, I am sure that many residents and businesses in the area will look forward to the many benefits that will come their way. I should like to thank the project team and contractors for their dedication and commitment to service delivery excellence, as well as our partners that have also worked tirelessly to ensure the project is a success. We cannot stress the importance of roads in this region and in South Africa in general. The obvious benefits compel us to continue to invest in road planning, construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance. This need has only been exacerbated by the prolonged underinvestment in rail, both passenger and freight rail, in South Africa. It is ultimately in all of our interests, and in the interests of the economy of South Africa, to work towards ensuring that more heavy traffic is moved off our roads, and back onto rail. I will continue to do all I can towards realizing this important goal.