R555: SANRAL met with MCCI
Members of the Middelburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, led by President Que Naidoo, and several SANRAL Northern Region representatives met to discuss the maintenance and condition of the R555 from Jackaroo Park to Middelburg.
The meeting began with businesses sharing their experiences of using the road. Members complained that mines operating adjacent to the R555 encroach on road reserves. The numerous coal trucks litter the road with debris and dust, making it dangerous to drive on. Also, the dust obscures the road markings. The area near the Sentech tower is very unsafe, especially because of the turning circles of the trucks entering and leaving the various mines.
Maintenance of the road in the two-lane sections has been substandard, forcing vehicles to drive into oncoming traffic to avoid vehicle damage. The recent heavy rains have washed away areas around the shoulders of the road, making it difficult for vehicles to exit or drive onto the road. It is challenging to brake sharply or take evasive action if needed due to the road conditions. Businesses are concerned about the safety of their employees travelling on the R555.
Hauliers complained that between the condition of the R555 and the expensive N4, they are reluctant to deliver to Middelburg. The products transported are sometimes damaged during delivery due to the road condition. This affects the sustainability of the companies that use the R555, as they cannot always ensure that the products are delivered in perfect condition.
SANRAL said they have a contractor who has to maintain the road. One component is to cut the grass at the edges and keep the roadsides clean, and the other component is to maintain the road surface. SANRAL said they have noted the issues raised and will address them. SANRAL was not aware of the problems with the mines and will look into the matter.
SANRAL planned to upgrade the 21 kilometre stretch of the R555 into a dual road. The high traffic volume has damaged the road surface and its many layers. SANRAL was also previously reluctant to do the upgrade as it could shift more traffic from the N4 to the R555. Due to this change in the upgrade status, SANRAL had already engaged service providers to design the site. The construction period is expected to start in 18 to 24 months. To consolidate the access to the upgraded road will be time-consuming. It will involve negotiations regarding the first five kilometres within Emalahleni Municipality and various houses and properties adjacent to the road.
In 1999 MCCI, SANRAL, the Minister of Transport and TRAC met several times because of the communities of Middelburg and Witbank. We objected to the new position of the Middelburg Toll Plaza. These negotiations led to transferring that part of the R555 to SANRAL as a national road. The other important agreement was that the residents of these two municipalities would receive a 75% discount at the Middelburg Toll Plaza. This discount has eroded over the years. It was practically impossible to obtain the agreed concession when the tag system was introduced.
MCCI thanked SANRAL for their willingness to meet with the business community. Members members requested SANRAL to arrange a meeting with TRAC so that we can discuss our problems with the toll fees and the extended maintenance period of the road. Businesses have been adversely affected by the positioning of the Middelburg Toll Plaza and the condition of the R555. Given the current economic situation, we urge all parties to find a solution that benefits us.