Government is spending big on infrastructure with the aim of improving the lives of South Africans and boosting the economy.
The National Infrastructure Plan, rolled out in 2012, is geared at changing the economic landscape of the country and creating jobs. The plan is an effort by government to build new infrastructure and upgrade existing infrastructure across the country.
In 2013, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced government would invest R827 billion over three years in building new and upgrading existing infrastructure.
The upgrades of the different infrastructure projects such as roads, electricity plants, ports, airports, hospitals, schools and dams will contribute to faster economic growth.
The biggest chunk of the investment in infrastructure will continue to come from Eskom’s two coal power stations, Medupi and Kusile.
The democratic government inherited a modern electricity generation fleet that was largely fuelled by coal and able to deliver electricity at low prices. Between 1994 and 2002, little investment was made in electricity generation.
The unexpected rapid growth of the economy after apartheid defied decades-old planning expectations in the electricity sector. Demand exceeded supply and the problem was compounded by pre-1994 decisions to stop power stations resulting in a supply crisis in early 2008.
According to the Twenty Year Review, the democratic state provided access to electricity to over 5.8 million households in less than 20 years. Under democracy electricity has become more accessible.
“In less than 20 years, the democratic state has provided access to electricity to over 5.8 million poor households. The electrification programme – which is rolled out by Eskom and municipalities and administered by the Department of Energy – has reduced the percentage of households without electricity to 14 per cent (from approximately 50 per cent in 1994),” the review notes.
Since 1994, there has been major policy reform in the electricity sector. New policies and laws were introduced to transform the sector. The most significant was establishing Eskom as a public company in 2002.
As a result of these interventions, access to electricity increased from just over 50 per cent of households in 1994/95 to 86 per cent in 2013/14.
In an effort to increase the generation of electricity and relieve the pressure on existing power stations, two new large coal-fired power stations, Medupi in Limpopo and Kusile in Mpumalanga, are under construction.
The two power stations are among the major construction projects of the democratic government.
MEDUPI Power Station
The Medupi power station is a coal-fired plant comprising six units with the ability to produce power of 800MW each.
According to the power station’s general manager Roman Crooks, this amount of power could light up most of Cape Town. Unit six is 90 per cent complete and construction for unit five has already started, he added.
The target is complete the entire project by 2018, Crooks said.
When finished, Medupi will be the world’s fourth largest coal power station and will be the largest dry-cooled power station in the world.
The construction of the power station is already making a positive impact on the small town of Lephalale as homes and social infrastructure is developed to serve the thousands of contractors working on the site.
Kusile Power Station
Kusile is a coal-fired power station close to the existing Kendal Power Station in Mpumalanga. The Kusile site is about 1 355 hectares in size and is located on the Hartbeesfontein and Klipfontein farms.
It is the most advanced coal-fired power plant project by Eskom. A coal-fired power station takes about 10 years to build, but due to capacity constraints, the Kusile project has been fast-tracked and it is anticipated that it will take about eight years to complete.
According to the review, the use of Metrorail grew steadily from 1993 to 1999.
This growth put pressure on the passenger rail network and the system reached the limits of its capacity. This resulted in unreliability arising from old rolling stock and signal system failure due to power failures, which were mostly because of copper cable theft.
A new agency - Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) - was formed to specifically focus on passenger rail. The agency was given the task of managing and upgrading the old infrastructure as well as overseeing the transportation of passengers to the major economic hubs of the country.
In 2010, Prasa embarked on an ambitious plan to upgrade the infrastructure. From 2015, train commuters will be travelling in new trains with modern features such as Wi-Fi, CCTV cameras, comfortable seating, air conditioning, route maps, on-board communication and toilets.
Overcrowding, delays, crime and train surfing will be a thing of the past as commuters experience the benefits and dignity of modern travel.
This will all be thanks to PRASA’s new fleet of trains. About 3 600 trains, valued at R51 billion are expected to be delivered over a 10-year period from 2015, creating 8 088 direct jobs.
This will be the result of PRASA upgrading its rolling stock fleet. PRASA will operate the normal Metro train and the more luxurious Metro Express. Both trains will run with six carriages during off-peak hours and 12 carriages during peak hours.
Since 2010, PRASA has been stepping up efforts to improve the rail network, as well as purchase new passenger and goods trains. The new trains will be phased-in in three corridors. The first line will be from Mabopane via Pretoria and Germiston to Park Station and Naledi. The second will be the south to north corridor in KwaZulu-Natal (Umlazi, Durban and KwaMashu). The third will be the Cape Town to Philippi route in the Western Cape.
In an effort to reduce the traffic congestion between the Johannesburg and Pretoria route, government undertook the ambitious project of constructing a high-speed train service in Gauteng – the Gautrain.
The construction phase of the project started in 2006 and was completed in 2011.
The Gautrain provides a link between Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport and transports over 1.2 million passengers monthly between 10 stations.
The Gautrain also runs a feeder bus service operating on a 125km range in Gauteng. The construction phase of the project played an important role in creating jobs and providing training for skilled and semi-skilled personnel.
The number of direct jobs created amounted to 11 700, while 63 200 indirect jobs were created and 10 400 skilled and semi-skilled personnel were trained. In addition 1 250 courses were offered for management.
Bus Rapid Transit
The City of Johannesburg has taken the lead by implementing its bus rapid system.
The Bus Rapid Transit or ‘Rea Vaya’, as the service is commonly known, was constructed to improve public transport in and around the city, reduce congestion on public roads, improve the environment and create jobs.
While providing safe, affordable and reliable public transport, the BRT has also created more than 7 000 jobs since it was initiated in 2009.
“Every day 40 000 passengers are transported safely, affordably and reliably. There has been significant skills transfer to construction workers, bus drivers and also to 400 station staff including ambassadors, marshals and cashiers,” says the executive director of transport at the City of Johannesburg Lisa Seftel.
The long-term plan is for Rea Vaya routes to cover 330km, allowing more than 80 per cent of Johannesburg residents to catch a bus.