Call to curb ‘lawless’ business forums
NEWS that work has resumed on a series of upgrades to the N3 highway – estimated to be worth a total of R18.4 billion – has been widely welcomed by the KwaZulu-Natal business community. But it has also prompted warnings that intimidation from ‘business forums’ could raise costs and hamper progress on these vital projects, some of which are already scheduled to take up to a decade to complete.
The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) recently announced the resumption of the upgrades, starting with the 16.4km portion of the N3 between the Dardanelles interchange and the Lynnfield Park interchange between Cato Ridge and Pietermaritzburg. This follows the recent completion of the Hammarsdale interchange.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs has welcomed the upgrade, which it believes will alleviate congestion on roads around the port and on the crucial N3 corridor linking the port of Durban to the hinterland, and South Africa’s economic powerhouse, Gauteng.
Department spokesman Bheki Mbanjwa said Transnet had projected that the port was likely to exceed its maximum capacity of 5.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent container units) by 2035 and that the N3 improvements would help ensure “less discomfort” for non-commercial road users until sorely needed rail efficiencies were implemented.
“The upgrade of the N3 will ensure ease of traffic movement and the continual maintenance will reduce fatalities on our roads. The long-term benefits to both the commuter and to the economy at large far outweigh any inconvenience,” he said.
SANRAL Eastern Region Project Engineer Corné Roux said work now underway on the R1.48 billion Dardanelles to Lynnfield Park stretch of the project would create an estimated 700 employment opportunities.
The work is being carried out by Raubex and is one of two new projects SANRAL has awarded to the JSE-listed construction group worth a combined R2.87 billion – the second being upgrades to the N2 between the KwaMashu interchange and the Umdloti River bridge, due to start in May 2021.
The N3 upgrade forms an integral part of the government’s Strategic Integrated Projects SIP2: Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor. SIP2 aims to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs, improve access to Durban’s export and import facilities and raise efficiency along the corridor.
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Palesa Phili welcomed the upgrades, saying they promised to shorten turnaround times for freight-carrying vehicles, reduce accidents and increase profitability. She said the Durban and KZN economy relied on the logistics and transport sector, and the upgrades would contribute to economic growth provided they were executed effectively.
Kelvin Kotze, Development Manager at the Hammarsdale Industrial Park also welcomed the “much needed” upgrades but cautioned that the construction process would be challenging for its users given the project scale and time frames.
“New and functional infrastructure is imperative for business confidence which directly correlates with employment creation. The recently completed Hammarsdale interchange has been excellent for the entire region. Anyone driving along the N3 can see new platforms and structures going up and occupancy levels in the area are reaching all-time highs,” said Kotze, who also chairs the Infrastructure workstream of the Hammarsdale Cato Ridge Development Association (HCRDA).
“Work stoppages due to business forum intimidation however lengthened that project considerably with unnecessary cost to the contractor and users,” he said, adding that law enforcement must act swiftly and decisively if this recurs.
“Given the scale of the N3 upgrades it would be devastating to all parties if similar lawlessness was to take root.”
He said the association was engaging SANRAL monthly so that local businesses are aware of progress.
“In support of the HCRDA vision, to make Hammarsdale and Cato Ridge a better place to work and live, the HCRDA is working closely with eThekwini Municipality, the South African Police Services and other important stakeholders. Cooperation is essential if this region is to achieve its full potential,” Kotze said.