Durban rolls out world class transport infrastructure

As cities around the country roll out their operational plans for the new integrated rapid public transport networks, the eThekwini Municipality wants to ensure it is not left behind.

The city has made huge strides in the delivery of programmes aimed at making public transport accessible, a strategy that also speaks to the city’s vision to make Durban “the most caring and liveable city” by 2030.

With October being National Transport Month, Gabi Khumalo looks at some of the progress made by the Ethekwini Municipality to improve Durban’s public transport network.

The much-anticipated GO!Durban, an integrated transport system that is environmentally friendly, will no doubt be one of the major transport infrastructural projects to hit Durban in the next coming years.

Once completed, the GO!Durban will see minibus vehicles collect people from residential areas to transfer stations where they will get buses to their preferred destinations. Dedicated public transport lanes have been constructed to give priority to public transport vehicles consisting of minibus taxis, buses, as well as meter taxis.

People will be able to board vehicles along the routes in various bus stops and transfer stations.

eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo says the city is currently focusing on the integrated rapid public transport plan to ensure that Durbanites enjoy a world class transport system.

About R20 billion set aside for transformation of Durban’s public transport system is expected to connect 600 000 commuters across the city to nine public transport corridors by 2027.

“By implementing the GO!Durban, we want to ensure every resident - school children, workers and the elderly in Durban are able to get onto reliable public transport from their place of residence all the way to their destination knowing that it is safe,” Nxumalo says.

The project is currently in its first phase of construction with the first dedicated route being developed from Bridge City in KwaMashu to the Pinetown business centre.

Construction is underway to turn the St John’s Bridge in Pinetown, from a public road underpass to a dedicated bus lane underpass, but at the same time ensuring the widening of Josiah Gumede Avenue on either side to allow for increased vehicle flow.

The site has been a hive of activity since May last year.

Deputy Head of Road System Management at the eThekwini Transport Authority Carlos Esteves says the underpass on Josiah Gumede Ave/Old Main Road was narrowed to allow one lane in each direction which will be dedicated for the GO!Durban buses.

“Ninety percent of the work has been successfully completed on this. The bridge deck was widened by approximately 15m on each side to accommodate the extra lanes that will be constructed. Furthermore, service ducts to accommodate existing and future services have been installed and precast barriers are being installed on the newly constructed retaining walls.”

A section of the GO!Durban roadway on Qashana Khuzwayo (Shepstone) Road in New Germany, which has been under construction for almost a year, has recently opened for mixed use traffic.

“Both north and southbound traffic along this road had been diverted through Blase Road, Chelsea Ave and Escom Road, so that work could be fast tracked in the section between Blase and Escom for GO!Durban’s first dedicated bus lane.”

Umngeni Road Interchange

Another landmark achievement is improvements to the Umngeni Road Interchange, which is located on the N2. The project has led to the reduction in congestion and improved road safety at the interchange.

It was initiated as part of the upgrade programme of the Durban Outer Ring Road and has been jointly funded by the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) and the eThekwini Municipality.

Construction started in March 2011 and was completed in July 2015.

The R512 million project included the construction of two incrementally launched, “free flow” interchange consisting of directional ramp bridges; a free flow loop ramp and three cast in-situ bridges; two pedestrian bridges and pedestrian facilities around the interchange.

During the construction period, 404 people including site staff were employed. Additionally, 17 small business subcontractors were used for the project.

The beginning of June 2015 ushered a momentous period when the first new ramps at the Umngeni Interchange on the N2 were opened to motorists. Of particular public interest was the eye-catching longest and highest ramp which enables traffic from the N2 North to branch off eastwards towards the Durban CBD.

The improvements at the Interchange have resulted in reduced journey times with a substantial reduction in traffic queues, reduction in traffic congestion on the N2 and M19 during peak hours. There has also been improved safety for pedestrians and motorists, as well as accident reduction, particularly on the N2 between the EB Cloete and Umngeni Interchanges.

The Umngeni Interchange has grabbed two prestigious awards, among them the Fulton Award in the category for civil engineering structures over R100 million in value.

Alternative modes of transport

In a bid to encourage citizens to utilise alternative modes of transport such as cycling, the city has constructed and completed cycle lanes, where cyclists can ride from the Bird Park on Riverside Drive to the highway across the river and continue to Snell Parade through to Ushaka Marine World.

“This aims to reduce the city’s carbon foot print and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Community Road Safety councils have been established to identify high accidents areas and implement interventions such as traffic-calming measures like speed humps, traffic circles, visible road signage or traffic lights,” says Mayor Nxumalo.