Johannesburg – A new road between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape would shorten the distance between East London and Durban by up to 85km and could lead to thousands of job opportunities in the two provinces.
Construction of the N2 highway could begin as soon as this year, following government’s decision that the road will no longer be a toll road.
The construction of the road has been on the back burner since 2002, as government wanted to erect additional toll gates in KwaZulu-Natal – specifically between Durban and Amanzimtoti – to fund construction in the Eastern Cape.
This proposal met powerful opposition, particularly from KwaZulu-Natal.
Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele this week told Sake24 that the project had now become a priority. He also confirmed that the road would no longer be a toll road.
When Ndebele was sounded out about where the money to build the new road would come from, he mentioned Treasury.
He said discussions were being held with Treasury – which was acutely aware of the need for such projects.
The new road would be constructed under the banner of the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) and would be built alongside large parts of the ecologically sensitive Wild Coast.
But Ndebele said that environmental aspects regarding the road’s construction would be fully considered and taken into account.
Sanral spokesperson Priya Pillay said the process had been delayed for that very reason because of objections to the construction lodged with the Department of Environmental Affairs in September 2010.
Ndebele was however not too concerned about further delays caused by environmental issues.
He said the final feasibility studies were currently being finished, after which construction could proceed. He said the road would greatly benefit both provinces.
Large amounts of material such as bitumen would have to be purchased in the provinces and the construction work would itself lead to thousands of jobs.