Under the theme: ‘Towards a desired transport future: Safe, Sufficient and Affordable,’ the Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) 2018 kicked off with an opening address by South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Transport, Honourable Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga.
Hon. Chikunga said Africa is plagued by the poor quality of its roads, maintenance backlogs and lack of preventative maintenance regimes. She attributed this to the low level of skills that are available and to the lack of financial resources. She added that road building and maintenance costs have become difficult to sustain through public (government) funding only.
Referencing the continued fuel price hikes, Hon. Chikunga said there were growing calls for the removal of fuel levies in South Africa. She said the country needed to promote the use of alternative fuels in public transport and encouraged carpooling and ride sharing in lieu of soaring road transport costs.
She said questions had also been raised about whether or not government subsidies were having the required effects on public transport user charges. The Deputy Minister conceded that the Road Accident Fund was technically insolvent and that the country could ill afford to stop paying fuel levies in support of road crash victims.
A plenary session by CEO of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), Mr Skhumbuzo Macozoma, followed. Macozoma presented ‘The Road Constructions Sector’s Contribution to the Transport Future we Desire’.
He said the transport future SANRAL desired is accessible to all, promotes rapid mobility, comprises integrated transport systems, is paperless and cashless, safe, sustainable and liveable.
However, skills remained a concern. “For us to get skills development right, we must win the battle at school,” he said. “The mass retirement of senior, primarily white, engineers means that urgent accelerated training is required to get young professional engineers to take over.”
Macozoma said South Africans are anti-tolls and are now anti-fuel levies. “We can’t have our cake and eat it too, unfortunately.”
He added that several Strategic Transport Projects have been delayed, due to the current economic and political climate. These included projects on the Gauteng-Durban Corridor, at Beit Bridge, along the Moloto Rail Corridor, on Gauteng’s Future Freeways and the N2 Corridor in the Western Cape.
In terms of materials used in road construction, he said the trajectory of the future included the use of Nano technology, light generating products, self-healing concrete, solar roads and 3D printing.
Since 1982, the annual SATC has developed into the premier transport conference in sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa’s longest standing transport conference and exhibition; the SATC has become an important contributor to and influencer in national debates about transport in the region.
The 2018 edition, held in conjunction with the 4th International Conference on Transport infrastructure, is endorsed by the Department of Transport, with the Minister of Transport an honoured patron.
Once again held at the CSIR Convention Centre in Pretoria – this year from 9 to 12 July – the SATC brings together over 700 transport professionals to discuss, debate and learn about relevant topics in the exciting – and complex – world of transport.
The SATC is of particular interest to funding agencies, municipal, provincial and national government, parastatals, policy- and decision-makers, academics, researchers, students and professionals active in the planning, construction, manufacturing, logistics, operation and safety of passenger and freight transport, road traffic, rail, maritime and aviation.
In fact, all subjects presented over the four days at the SATC are based on research papers that are strictly reviewed and selected by the Technical Committee prior to the conference. Furthermore, the SATC conference is SAICE accredited and professional engineers will earn one CPD credit per day of attendance.
On Tuesday, 10 July it is the turn of Professor Robert Cervero from the University of California’s Transportation Centre to provide the plenary address. Mr Vuyani Jarana, CEO of South African Airways Group, will wrap up the plenaries on Wednesday, 11 July.
The 5th China-Africa Co-Operation Forum will follow Mr Jarana’s address on Wednesday, 11 July, which serves to confirm and reinforce the international presence and significance of the SATC.
Breakaway sessions take place on each of the four days of the conference, immediately after the early morning plenary sessions, which allow attendees to pick and choose the sessions most relevant and interesting to them.
SATC truly caters to everyone; there are parallel sessions on transport infrastructure, freight and logistics, rail, public transport, traffic engineering, urban transport and even aviation.