Roads are an essential part of the life of individuals as well as businesses. They become such a part of everyday life that the benefits they bring are seldom recognised. But the benefits are enormous, particularly on modern, safe, wellconstructed and well-maintained roads.
These benefits form part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) which deals with the highways in inner Gauteng. The benefits impact both indivisuals and the economy as a whole, and in so many ways that they are simply never taken into account.
Just take children. Fewer children walk to school in Gauteng, where the highways are tolled, than in any other province. They mostly use public transport - buses and taxis - which are exempt from tolls!
Gauteng, where these improved highways are, is the economic heart of the country. A quarter of the country’s people live in this province and it contributes 36% towards the country’s GDP. Therefore it is vital that as much as possible should be done to boost the province’s economy.
And this is exactly what the GFIP does. The Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town found that international research experience suggests that in addition to normal accessibility improvements, businesses in a growing economy like Gauteng would benefit from increased effiencies in their labour markets.
“This may add 30% to 50% extra on conventionally assessed benefits” the UCT report states. These benefits include reduced vehicle operating costs and reduced travelling times. The upgrades on the highways and the improved interchanges have led to property developments, which have been a catalyst for economic growth, job creation and densification.
In a wider context, and over time, the improved highways encourage trip sharing, discourage urban sprawl, promote the use of public transport and discourage road usage during peak hours.
There are other hidden advantages – less time spent on the roads means more time for yourself, your family, less tension sitting in traffic and increases your overall wellbeing. A very real advantage of the project that not many take note of is the sophisticated Freeway Management System (FMS). This provides both a rapid response in case of an incident and thus keeping the flow of traffic as smooth as possible. Incidents could be a crash, a stranded vehicle, a breakdown or a need for medical assistance.
The first sixty minutes of an accident is called the “golden hour” – it is the most critical time in which lives can be saved and injuries minimised which is exactly what the FMS provides. Towing vehicles, incident and medical response Vehicles, “medics on bikes” – all staffed with personnel who are experienced in medical and incident management – are ready to react as soon as an incident is reported.
Not only is the GFIP a boon to all in Gauteng and those who use it, the system used to pay for the debt incurred to construct and maintain it, is fair: if you don’t use these highways, you don’t pay. If you live in upington or Oudtshoorn, the tolls will not affect you.
It is a win-win situation for all.