Sanral, the national road agency in SA, has announced that it has hit a “fiscal cliff” and is no longer able to expand the roads under its purview or fully address the growing backlog of maintenance required to bring them up to standard. This situation is made worse by the national government’s plans to move some of the most neglected provincial roads into the Sanral portfolio. In its Annual Performance Plan for the 2023/24 financial year, Sanral stated that it needs to take “rational and prudent decisions” regarding its road network growth and review how much support it can give to other road authorities and how many roads it can incorporate from other spheres of government.
Currently, Sanral manages just under 23,500km of roads, while the provinces are responsible for 271,500km. Metros are responsible for 66,150km, and municipalities cover 256,900km. The national government is moving forward with plans to transfer around 15,000km of roads under provincial and local governments, which are rapidly deteriorating due to a lack of maintenance, to the Sanral portfolio.
The Department of Transport has reiterated this strategy, stating that some provinces are transferring their roads to Sanral so that they can be better developed and managed. However, Sanral has warned that it simply cannot keep up with what needs to be done if it doesn’t receive the necessary financing and budgetary aid from the national fiscus to match this expanding portfolio. Sanral has reached a “fiscal cliff” in balancing network growth against insufficient funds per kilometre required to maintain the Overall Condition Index (OCI) of the network to an acceptable level.
Sanral unable to expand network due to budget constraints
The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has announced that it is no longer able to expand its network due to budgetary constraints. While funding allocations will enable the agency to address basic budget requirements, it is not enough to maintain the growing backlog of roads needing maintenance or allow for network expansion.
Sanral has stated that not being able to expand the network will lead to increased congestion and road user costs. The agency has estimated that it would require a minimum of R15.8 billion a year for the next ten years to address the backlog and expand the network, if toll funding is not an option.
Sanral has previously experienced issues with private financing, notably with the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and its protracted e-toll saga. As a result, the agency has called for the development of a Road Funding policy led by the Department of Transport to ensure policy certainty.