Johannesburg - High transport costs are a barrier to a large
portion of SA's unemployed looking for work, said Deputy Transport Minister
Jeremy Cronin on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Africa Rail Conference, Cronin said at least
12% of the unemployed cannot afford transport fares.
The problem is worst in rural areas and smaller towns. In
Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape the unemployment rate is between 70% to 80%,
indicating just how big a barrier lack of affordable transport is to the
unemployed who live far from South Africa's economic hubs.
"So, there are important reasons to champion rail in
South Africa," said Cronin.
It is imperative that South Africa invest in transport
infrastructure to reduce production costs, increase trade and grant access to
communities living far away from economic hubs, he said.
South Africa's rail networks are severely underdeveloped.
The consequences are congestion, higher greenhouse gas emissions, damage to
road networks and an increase in road fatalities and serious injuries which
costs the country R50bn a year.
"Over the last few years we have seen a growing
commitment from the government to seriously turn around the rail
situation," said Cronin.
"We are in the process of moving towards a major
18-year recapitalisation of our Metrorail rolling stock and signaling
equipment," he said.
Transnet also has plans for major improvements on SA's