Eastern Cape government spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti’s Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee has given the go ahead for the project after the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) managed to resolve about 98% percent of the disputes relating to tolling and environmental impact.
A delegation led by Nkwinti‚ which included Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) CEO Nazir Alli‚ met Premier Phumulo Masualle at state house in Bhisho yesterday to discuss the implementation of the green-fields portion of the highway. Other stakeholders part of yesterday’s meeting were AmaXhosa King Zwelonke Sigcawu‚ Alfred Nzo Mayor Eunice Diko and OR Tambo Mayor Nomkhosazana Meth.
The new road will pass through both these areas.
Former Minister of Environment and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk rejected the original proposal for the road in 2004 after his officials ruled that the first environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted lacked independence due to financial links to a private toll road consortium.
A second EIA assessment was conducted and in 2010 the Department of Environmental Affairs approved the toll road. The project however stalled following legal appeals by the Amadiba coastal community and other parties. It was also reported in July last year that a group calling itself the South Durban Business Coalition had also launched legal action to block the road after studies by transport consultant Gavin Maasdorp suggested that at least 31% of the total toll fees for the route would be collected from Durban commuters and businesses via the proposed Isipingo toll plaza.
Speaking on behalf of Sanral‚ Maropa communication’s head JP Roodt‚ said it was unlikely that all concerns on a project this big would ever be fully settled and resolved.
With regards to work on the road‚ Roodt said: “Sanral will be advertising for professional service providers to complete the detailed designs for all these projects in 2016.”
Kupelo said they were excited that after 14 years of delay‚ thousands of people‚ especially from the Pondoland area‚ would get jobs and benefit from Sanral’s skills development programme. He said this had already started in some of the affected villages.
The original project stretched from East London to Durban covering 560km. But Roodt said improvements on the KwaZulu- Natal South Coast portion of the N2‚ as well as the upgrading of the R61 from Port Edward through to the N2 “have been divorced” from the Wild Coast Road projects and would be handled separately.
Explaining the different phases of the project‚ Roodt said “green-fields” referred to completely new sections of road that are planned for the area between the Ndwalane and Ntafufu rivers towards Lusikisiki and between Lusikisiki and the Mtamvuna river just before Port Edward.
He said it amounted to about 96km of road and “will include nine major bridges and three interchange bridges”.
The project includes two mega-bridges across the Msikaba and Mtentu river gorges at a cost of R1.2-billion and R1.3 billion respectively.
“The construction of the bridges themselves will only start approximately one year from the start of the tender phase‚” said Roodt. “However‚ during the tender phase Sanral will go out to tender and construct approximately 19km of temporary construction haul roads required to reach each side of the two bridge sites from the nearest existing roads.”
He said due to the size of both bridges and their complexities‚ “both bridges have an expected construction period of three and half years”.
“Both of these bridges have been fully designed. Due to the need to bring in international construction experience and expertise as well as complex logistics involved‚ the tender period for the two mega bridges will be between nine and 12 months‚” he said.
Sanral reassured communities facing displacement as a result of the project that they “will be properly relocated" and compensated.
Amadiba crises committee spokeswoman Nomhle Mbuthuma could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.
- TMG Digital/Daily Dispatch