The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) today calls for an immediate ban on all heavy vehicles of more than three tons on Fields Hill in a bid to curb further loss of life on this notorious stretch of road.
The move comes after yet another accident involving a truck took place earlier this morning. At this stage, there does not appear to be any loss of life, with the truck leaving the road and falling down an embankment. Fortunately, there are also no indications of any other vehicles being involved.
The DA regards it as unacceptable that KZN MEC, Bheki Ntuli and his Department of Transport (DoT) continue to ignore the dangers that the M13 major arterial highway, which includes Fields Hill, poses to motorists. Not only is the condition of the road fast deteriorating, there is also minimal law enforcement when it comes to ensuring that so-called ‘heavies’ are kept off the Hill during peak times.
The DA continues to receive numerous complaints from the surrounding community around these issues, yet despite our ongoing requests to the MEC and his Department – at both a municipal and provincial level – nothing concrete has been done.
The DA first raised its concerns regarding Field Hill as far back as 2005 which were met with disdain by former KZN Transport MEC, Willies Mchunu and his colleagues. In 2008, the DA tabled a Motion in the KZN Legislature, calling for a complete ban on all heavy vehicles on Field’s Hill. The DA-run Western Cape has long made use of specific legislation to reclassify particular roads in that province to restrict the use of heavy vehicles, making them safer and reducing traffic accidents.
Proposed alternatives to Fields Hill at the time include the building of a toll road near Ashburton, so that heavy vehicles would pay toll fees further up the N3 and would not divert down Field’s Hill in order to save on this. Still, nothing happened.
Following 2013’s horror crash, which killed 24 people, the former MEC received conclusive evidence in the form of expert reports that Field’s Hill was not suited to heavy vehicles. At the time, the DA proposed that KZN’s DoT test the effect on business communities along the M13 by banning heavy vehicles from Fields Hill for six months in order to establish the precise extent and areas of concern that this closure would create and what alternate solutions need to be found. The suggestion was stubbornly ignored and the only measure taken was to set up a truck stop during peak hours – a measure which remains inadequately enforced today.
Compounding the issue is MEC Ntuli’s recent admission that there is no budget for maintenance or repairs along the M13, and Field’s Hill in particular. The DA will not tolerate this being used as an excuse to do nothing. There are other measures which the DoT can and must make use of in the interim. These include;
• Strict enforcement of the mandatory truck-stop at the top of Fields Hill, which is largely ignored
• Visible policing on this stretch of road at peak traffic times
• Replacement of cat’s eyes which are no longer functional
• Realignment and replacement of barriers following numerous accidents which have destroyed some areas
• Installation of jersey barriers which are more effective than the current armco barriers and;
• Proper maintenance of the island area so that barriers are visible and also not buried under vegetation and sand.
The Fields Hill problem is not going to go away and the MEC and his Department need to realise this and take proactive steps to protect peoples’ lives.
The DA will continue to pressure MEC Ntuli and his Department to act with urgency. The safety of roads users must be a priority and further loss of life on this infamous road must be prevented, particularly as we head towards the festive season with its increased traffic volumes.