Durban – When complete, the multibillion-rand upgrade of the N3 that links the economic hubs of Johannesburg and Durban will save motorists and the freight industry 6 300 hours every day.
Dumisani Nkabinde, South African National Roads Agency Eastern Region’s Regional Manager said that in addition to the hours saved by road users, the improvement will save the economy R1.76million per day.
This comes in the wake of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) Minister Patricia de Lille conducting an over oversight visit to the R3.2 billion upgrade of N3 interchange between Cato Ridge and Dardanelles and the N3 between Dardanelles and Lynnfield on Thursday.
Nkabinde said that roughly 47 500 vehicles per day, travelled between Cato Ridge and Pietermaritzburg with the current operating speed around 80km/hr.
“The upgrades will result in an operating speed of 120km/hr, resulting in about an 8 minute saving per vehicle. If you add this saving for the 47 500 vehicles per day, the net time saving per day on this section is 6 300 hours. Furthermore, we use an average of R280 per hour for the time costs between light and heavy vehicles. Therefore there is an average overall saving in time per day with the improvement on this section of R1,76million per day. While the 8 minutes may not seem like much per vehicle, it is the impact overall on the total volumes of light and heavy vehicles on the N3 that is critical,” he said.
Nkabinde said the biggest effect would be the reduced impact when there is a traffic incident
“Currently, with only two lanes per direction, the closing of one lane due to an incident can result in major time delays. With the addition of two extra lanes, (in some areas 3 extra lanes) per direction, the number of incidents and the effect on the traffic as a result of an incident, should be greatly reduced. From the economic studies undertaken, closure of the N3 results in a loss to the economy based on value of time and freight commodities of about R500 000 per hour. For example, a 4-hour closure can result in a loss to the economy of R 2million,” he said.
The DPWI said the upgrade was part of a Strategic Integrated Projects approved by Cabinet in May last year.
The plan is also an integral part of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in October 2020 in which infrastructure development was identified as the flywheel to economic growth.
The N3 National Road upgrade projects is being implemented by the Department of Transport and the South African National Roads Agency and its contractors.
De Lille said the N3 program comprises two projects and spans over the next 6 to 8 years and includes 14 packages estimated to be in excess of R20billion.
The two sections of the road being upgraded are divided into two contracts and is already bringing significant benefit through SMME empowerment and job creation.
The first section of the N3 upgrade from Cato Ridge to Dardanelles extends along 6km of the N3.
The road upgrade project extends from north of the Cato Ridge Interchange to south of the Dardanelles Interchange and includes the Camperdown Interchange and the north facing ramps of the Cato Ridge Interchange. The project falls within the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Mkhambathini Local Municipality and eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
“This project’s important and contribution to the ERRP is substantial as the N3 is integral to the economic growth of South Africa. A growing South African population has placed this strategic corridor under severe pressure, requiring substantial upgrading to portions of the corridor. The N3 upgrade forms an integral part of the government’s Strategic Integrated Projects as part of the Durban-Free State-Gauteng Logistics and Industrial Corridor. It aims to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs, improve access to Durban’s export and import facilities and raise efficiency along the corridor. It is the busiest road freight corridor in South Africa with over seventy million tons of freight per annum transported by road,” De Lille said.
It is hoped that the upgrade to the N3 should alleviate congestion on roads around the port and on the crucial N3 corridor linking the port of Durban and Gauteng.
“It should shorten turnaround times for freight-carrying vehicles, reduce accidents and increase profitability and contribute to economic growth. The need for the project arose from increased traffic volumes, declining levels of service on the freeway, and the pavement of the existing road reaching a terminal state,” De Lille said.