The extent of South Africa’s Transport related assets collectively make it one of the country’s largest national assets raising the question: Are we planning and implementing transport projects to get the most out of the opportunities that exist, for today and well into the future?

Herbert Phahlane, Director of Traffic and transportation, at WSP Commercial Civils, Africa, believes we are not.  In order to do more Phahlane says the country should focus on three things: integrated, long term planning, driving the vision through collaboration and changing the approach to people centred transport.

Integrated, long-term planning

“This should go without saying but, given the current state of prioritisation of infrastructure projects, it needs to be said. We need a long-term vision that encapsulates how people will live, work and play – and well beyond 2030.”

Phahlane notes that while there is transport infrastructure projects being planned and implemented an impact assessment process of determining whether or not they are the right projects to get the backlog moving is still lacking.

“Effective implementation of transport infrastructure projects should be considered in earnest – of what will benefit people, communities, trade and industry and, in that order. This will better enable us to design based on what the future demand on transport networks will be – to allow us to potentially leapfrog current implementation constraints and get ahead of the demand curve that will support sustainable development and growth going forward,” he explains.

Driving the vision through collaboration

Phahlane says major transportation infrastructure projects must be integrated with provincial and municipal development.

“Certainly, better co-ordination is required between authorities that control primary, large scale infrastructure, and those that manage the secondary and tertiary related infrastructure. However, the responsibility does not rest solely with government departments and these authorities.

“The private sector is a significant contributor to transport projects in the country. It also currently employs the bulk of professionals skilled in delivering on transport and major infrastructure projects and particularly with getting projects through the pipeline proving that there is in fact incredible scope for engagement between parties.

This will take a leap of faith, from all parties. However, once open channels of engagement and trust can be established and cemented this will create immense opportunities for collaboration. Currently the magnitude of what can be achieved through collaboration is unmeasurable, but this could range from the transferring of skills to joint strategic planning initiatives, and delivery through joint ventures or public private partnerships (PPPs).”

People-focused transport

Phahlane points out that we can no longer afford for how people move between spaces to be an afterthought.

“Across the country there is need to expand all modes of public transport. But, such expansions will only be as effective and successful as they are integrated into the larger regional and cross-regional transport networks. Once we can get this right, it will open opportunities to introduce universal travel and transfer rates, with a universal payment system,” he highlights.

“Collectively, applying such changes to how we plan, design and build integrated public transport networks will bode increased confidence by people – and towards effecting positive change in mindsets about the reliability, safety and comfort of public transport solutions.”

“South Africa has certainly got a lot right in its infrastructure, to date. Going forward, however, the true value of our transport networks will be realised when we plan, construct and maintain our infrastructure with a vision of the societal resilience that will continue to build and support the economy of future generations. It’s not a quick fix. And, getting it right will require partners who are not averse to taking a strong and forward-looking approach to plan, design, and engineer an impactful legacy,” he concludes.