Meeting SummaryThe Department of Transport (DOT) outlined the status of gravel roads in the country, according to provinces. In
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) pointed out that the maintenance of gravel roads was costly to the road authority because of the need for ongoing grading and regravelling. It was costly to the producer because of dust and other pollution, damage to vehicles, accidents, and the difficulty of obtaining materials. The briefing looked at the use of chemical stabilisers as a solution. There was a lack of confidence in them, on account of opportunistic marketing without supervision. The briefing gave illustrated examples of what had been achieved through using old gravel roads as a base, and covering them with low volume sealing. Various methods of sealing were discussed. The conclusion was that sealing or surfacing was initially expensive, but was very often a better option than the continuous maintenance of gravel roads. Cost effective rural roads were possible.
African Access Holdings (AAH) indicated how both education and business were compromised by poor rural roads. AAH relied on a subcontractor network to supply books to rural schools. Subcontractors were encouraged to develop their own business, and poor road access impacted negatively on them, as it did on the schools they supplied to.
Members were severely critical of the DOT briefing, and extremely appreciative of the one by CSIR. Members felt that the DOT was not addressing problems of access to schools and clinics in their constituencies. There were accounts of tragedies that had occurred on that account. Members took exception to the fact that the
The Chairperson used the analogy of veins and arteries that carried blood to the body to point out the importance of road networks. With regard to rural gravel road upgrading, she made observations based on oversight visits by the Portfolio Committee to the
Department of Transport (DOT) on the upgrading of rural gravel roads briefing
Mr Prasanth Mohan, DOT Acting Chief Director: Infrastructure Network Management, indicated that the S’hamba Sonke programme was aimed at the maintenance of key arterial routes to support the rural economy, and to improve access to schools and hospitals.
Mr Mohan pointed out that gravel roads required more frequent maintenance than paved roads. He provided figures related to the status quo of roads in the country, according to the paved / gravel classification. He also supplied graphs about the condition of gravel roads according to provinces. There were high percentages of gravel roads in very poor and poor condition, especially in
Mr Mohan provided a perspective by the African Development Bank Group. Inter alia it stated that there had been progress in the management of
Mr Mohan took the Committee through provincial programmes and challenges to municipal programmes. He showed slides of the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on the upgrading of rural gravel roads
Dr Phil Paige-Green, CSIR Chief Researcher: Built Environment, set out to look at the the cost, advantages and disadvantages of gravel roads. The CSIR had done past research on the upgrading of rural roads.
Dr Green told the Committee that there were five to six hundred thousand kiliometres of gravel roads in rural and poor areas. Upgrading with chemical stabilisers had been looked at, and sealing options. There had been research on deterioration and loss of gravel in 1982-1989 and a report was published in 1990 (Technical Recommendation for Highways (TRH20: 1990)). The findings were implemented only in the early 2000s.
There were important considerations regarding the material properties and construction of gravel roads. There were drainage problems that led to potholes. Dust caused problems for agriculture. Corrugations caused damage to vehicles. Stoniness was controllable, but if uncontrolled resulted in very rough roads.
The maintenance of gravel roads required grader blading at intervals of one week to five or six months. Periodic regravelling was required. There had to be roadside maintenance management systems. Specialised inputs were required. Skills required had been reduced recently, but sustainability remained a challenge. Gravel tended to be lost and had to be replaced every six to 10 years. Massive amounts of gravel were required. It could fill the
The maintenance of gravel roads required high expenditure. Grading and regravelling were continuous processes. The total cost of construction and regravelling came to a quarter million rand per kilometre. Grader maintenance alone cost R340 per kilometre. Regravelling of 10% of South African roads could come to R6 billion per year. Maintenance fell behind more every year.
Producer costs were also high. There were costs to the road user. Accidents added to cost. There was the time factor, because traffic moved more slowly on gravel roads. There was pollution through gravel washed into rivers, and dust. There were the social costs linked to lack of access to facilities. There was a strong impact on the gross domestic product (GDP). Transported goods were damaged, and so were vehicles. Parts had to be replaced. Deliveries to chain stores like Woolworths had to be on time or be sent back. Materials needed for maintenance could be hard to locate. In rural areas, knowledge of where to dig for materials was disappearing. The present generation no longer had it. There were regulatory requirements. As many as 27 departments had to approve interventions, which could stretch the time needed to build a new road to 18 months.
Dr Green continued that a colleague of his, based in the
Sustainability remained a challenge. The CSIR had looked at more than 50 products as alternative stabilisers. Research was seldom sponsored by suppliers. There had been failures. In one instance a private road built for R7 million was generating dust after one week. Then dust palliatives had to be used. Such measures were inexpensive, but had to be used every year.
Agrément had developed a certification process and a protocol. Products were tested in the laboratory for a certificate to be issued. But thus far only one certificate had been issued. It was for a cement based product with a flexibility additive. Engineers in the provinces would only consider the Agrément certified product. Results obtained from stabilising products had been mixed. There was not much confidence in them. One product had caused stones to be locked in, which meant that they could not be removed after exposure. Bitumen had been used in the
Dr Green said that old gravel roads could be used as a base with a surface on top. The CSIR had been involved in low volume sealed roads since 1989, but the practice had not been disseminated properly. The conservatism of engineers posed a problem. They wanted to avoid risk, and went for expensive options. Currently there were user friendly guidelines that made alternatives more implementable. There were shape and seal methodologies that could bridge the gap between cheap gravel and expensive sealed options. Instruments were available to rapidly determine the strength of a road. Surfacing was expensive as a matter of course, but the least expensive option was not always the best.
Dr Green stressed the importance of management systems. Municipal finance management had to be compulsory. Roads had to be included in the asset register, and there had to be regular assessment. Assessment systems had to be simple, roads had to be classified in terms of being good, bad or fair. There had to be management systems for small local authorities. Refinement of design catalogues, technology transfer and publicising of documents were essential. Agrément certification of chemical stabilisers had to be increased.
Dr Green concluded that it was impossible to seal all South African roads. Maintenance management of unsealed roads had to improve. Alternative stabilisers had to be considered. It was possible to have cost effective rural roads.
Briefing by African Access Holding Group Impact of Inaccessible Roads Presentation
Mr Gap Maloka, Group Director: Business Development, explained that his organisation supported provincial governments through procurement systems to get books and study materials to schools. It relied on a subcontractor network system. People with vehicles in communities were encouraged to start up a business. It contributed to job creation. People were paid for delivery, and hence road infrastructure problems compromised them. Deliveries had to be on time. Gravel road access to deep rural schools was a problem in the provinces. Some schools could really only be accessed with 4x4 vehicles, and things were worse in the rainy season. He cited an example where a courier had to park his vehicle and walk to the school to get help in collecting the books. There were replacement costs due to replacement of tires, vehicle damage and accidents. He advised that the CSIR research be studied.
Ms N Ngele (ANC) noted that the Minister had said that roads were a priority but nothing was happening in rural areas. There were no roads. The means to upgrade rural roads were there, but nothing was happening. It was impossible to drive to rural clinics. The Department had to prioritise. If roads were expensive, something had to be done. The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) had tried to build side lanes on
Ms D Dlakude (ANC) said that a new car would last only three months on rural roads. Policies needed to be looked at again. They were not assisting rural development. Policy change was needed especially with regard to budget allocation. Budgets were still allocated according to population. Capacity in municipalities was a challenge. Some areas had no road access at all. She said that she did not understand the 200 cars per day benchmark rule.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) appreciated the passion shown by Dr Green for his field of expertise. He remarked that it was probably not possible to seal half a million kilometres of South African roads. He asked what Dr Green meant by sealed roads. For him it meant concrete type sealing, asphalt, chip and spray, thin skin roads or stabilised surfaces.
Mr Krumbock asked about bituminous alternatives and sand-sealing.
Mr Green replied that sealing referred mostly to bituminous surfaces or concrete. A sand seal consisted of bitumen with sand and chalk.
Mr L Suka (ANC) questioned the use of
Mr Mohan replied that
Mr Suka remarked that the practice of road upgrading initiatives having to be cleared by 27 departments, was an impediment to progress. Cuts had to be made. The Department of Transport had to come up with tangible things. Mr Suka remarked about skills development that people left the system and returned as consultants. Skills development was very slow. 70% of the
Mr I Ollis (DA) remarked that the CSIR presentation had been excellent. It showed what could be achieved. He had been shocked by the poor quality of the DOT briefing. It was actually stated on page 6 that there were nine metros in
Ms N Mdaka (ANC) said that she was worried about the Chairperson. Her sleep would be interrupted by the pothole song. The Committee was looking at disaster. The community was being failed. There was silence about accidents. The DOT would be singing the same song at the end of the current term. It was painful and hurting. Potholes had become a nightmare. The DOT was failing the Committee and themselves.
Mr P Mbehle (COPE) asked about absorptive labour methodologies. He asked how the Department made sure that they were implemented. The community had to be taken into confidence. There had been challenges in scenarios where labour intensive companies had been used. He objected to the fact that the
Mr Mbehle agreed that the CSIR presentation had been enlightening. He asked why there was little confidence in new products for road upgrading, and reluctance to put them to use.
Mr Green replied that it was the result of bad marketing by non-technical salespeople with little knowledge of the product, who wanted to make quick money. They would dump the product and run, and not be available to supervise during construction.
The Chairperson asked that the DOT bring a strategy to the Committee for upgrading rural gravel roads. There was no strategy to be seen. Either the DOT had none, or it did not understand the problem. The Department had given no perspective on key issues raised by the African Development Bank Group. If other countries wanted to learn from
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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