BuaNews (Tshwane)

South Africa: Tolls Opposition Could Delay Road to Boost Economic Growth

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Cape Town — Opposition to the Wild Coast toll road could delay work on a new road between Port Edward and Port St Johns, which is part of a plan to help promote economic growth in the Eastern Cape, Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin said on Thursday.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting with Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele in Cape Town following the delivery of Ndebele's Budget Vote speech yesterday, Cronin said the department was involved in two court cases from parties that opposed tolling on the section of the Wild Coast route between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

The one case had been brought by businesses from the south of Durban, while another had been brought by traditional leaders and community members in Pondoland in the Eastern Cape - through which 65km of new road from Port Edward to Port St Johns would route.

The overhaul of the N2 and other roads in the Eastern Cape is part of a South-Eastern node to boost economic growth in the mostly rural province, and is one of the five strategic projects outlined by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address in February.

Cronin said work on the 95km section between the two towns - which includes 65km of new road - would involve the building of two new bridges.

Work could get under way later this year or early next year, depending on what kind of opposition there was to tolls on the section.

"We are very determined to proceed with something we have been talking about for far too long now," said Cronin.

The KwaZulu-Natal government is against the Wild Coast toll road plan, as it argues the tolls could harm the province's economy.

Ndebele, however, pointed out that much of the 490km of the N2 between Amanzimtoti and East London fell in the Eastern Cape.

Transport Director General George Mahlalela believes that the two key transport problems the country faces were the need to develop transport and logistics corridors and secondly, to improve municipal transport systems - adding that he had recently held a fruitful engagement with metro mayors on transport.

Critical to this was the need to develop a funding strategy for public transport, he said.

However, he admitted that the department and respective transport departments in provinces had limited project management skills, which would remain a challenge.

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