Skip to content
Home » Tackling the transport infrastructure conundrum (Part 2)

Tackling the transport infrastructure conundrum (Part 2)

Transport infrastructure is central to the cold chain, and in this opinion piece by Chris Campbell, CEO of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA), he argues that consulting engineers to play the key role rather than politicians. This is part two of a two-part series.

Chris Campbell, CEO of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA). Image supplied by Cold Link Africa.
Chris Campbell, CEO of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA). Image supplied by Cold Link Africa.

…continued from part one.

Realistic PPPs – addressing the skills challenge

One can include the need for stronger and more realistic public private partnerships as an initiative which has not been utilised sufficiently. One cannot, for example, expect parties who may be interested in a concession on a major freight rail network, to make substantial investments where the contracted period is hopelessly too short. Other initiatives, which we are already busy with, include separating the infrastructure asset owner from the user in the case of rail, to allow for multi-user access on a paid for basis as we do with toll roads. This idea has been bandied about for over twenty years and maybe we should be more serious about this and get this system implemented sooner.

The management and skills challenges will still need to be addressed in the immediate short term, as the vertical separation process will not happen quickly enough, and even if it does, it will require an optimally functional and capacitated ‘Infrastructure Manager’ to ensure that the network is ‘Reliable, Affordable, Available and Safe’ – ‘RAAS’. This was the mantra which many lived up to from the late nineties well into the early 2000s, in the railway infrastructure maintenance environment, when all efforts were being made to ensure that the rail service was indeed ‘Predictable’.

New projects build empowerment and economic inclusivity

Section 217 in our Constitution requires that we at all times ensure, fairness, cost effectiveness, transparency and competitiveness, while using public procurement to drive the necessary economic inclusivity, which is still lacking in our post-1994 society. Ensuring the appropriate skills levels to implement these projects is imperative, especially at local government level.

Better use should be made of the private sector consulting engineering capacity – Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) has close to 600 member companies employing thousands of engineering practitioners, who are utilised only to 80% of industry capacity. Many young engineering practitioners are emigrating to where their skills and knowledge is fully utilised.

We need to use new projects to build on our empowerment and economic inclusivity by developing competent and committed capacity among consulting engineering companies, contractors and suppliers. There can be no room for extortive practices and corruption, that have hampered many new projects to date.

More local capacity for the future will help overcome foreign-based approaches that seek to lend money to our country for development, while at the same time being allowed to take advantage of the financial opportunity that these projects present, to the exclusion of our local industries.

In conclusion, we need a collective approach in which government taps into the capacity and technical expertise available from the private sector to develop a comprehensive transportation plan for our country. This plan needs to not only focus on the development of new infrastructure, but also the maintenance of our existing infrastructure, aimed at meeting the needs of all participants in the transportation sector.