Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said at the opening of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature that he would be addressing the problem of public transport infrastructure and improving the province’s road network this year.

Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said at the opening of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature said he would be addressing the problem of public transport infrastructure and need for more roads by improving the province’s road network.

“Last year we initiated 18 projects to begin to address traffic congestion. They include the introduction of extra lanes on steep hills for trucks so that faster traffic can pass, limiting heavy trucks to certain roads, the construction of additional taxi and bus stops and the improvement of intersection layout to speed up traffic flow.

“However, more needs to be done to address the fact that transport demand is outstripping the supply of road and public transport infrastructure. We need to change our transport habits, reduce the demand for travel and introduce new 'intelligent transport systems' such as integrated ticketing systems and call centres for passenger information which aim to make transport safer, smoother, smarter and quicker,” he said.

His spokesman, Thabo Masebe, told CARtoday.com that motorists could contact the call centres to check on traffic congestion and problems on the roads, while commuters can check bus or train details. “We also want to introduce a system that will allow commuters to use the same ticket to travel by bus, train or taxi,” Masebe said.

Shilowa said that there were plans to improve the road network. “Key plans for 2003 include the doubling of the Atlas Road and the construction of an interchange on the R21 Freeway near the Johannesburg International Airport. The work starts in March and should be completed by 2005 at a cost of about R240 million,” he said.

On the subject of road safety, the premier said there would be continuous road blocks to check drivers licences, roadworthiness of vehicles, overloading and drunk drivers. “The country needs to move with speed to implement the point system which will allow us to dock points from bad drivers. The same applies to unroadworthy vehicles. These should be taken off the road,” he said.

Shilowa said the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link project was ready to move to the next phase. “The approval by the minister of finance of the financing model for the project makes it possible for us to move to the next stage. The environmental impact assessment has been completed and the report has been made public. We remain on course to begin construction in February 2004, and complete the project within the stipulated time frame.

“We are pleased by the amount of public interest that this project has generated. Thousands of people took part in the environmental assessment study and many continue to express views on the project. We receive messages from many people who know what the train will do to improve the efficiency of our public transport system and make life easy for commuters,” he said.