Official Opening of Swartberg Pass, Prince Albert
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
10 April 2018
- Programme Director
- Speaker of the Prince Albert Municipality, Councillor Stoffel Botes
- Councillors and officials of the Prince Albert Municipality
- Officials of the Department of Transport and Public Works, and officials at our district offices, namely Oudtshoorn
- The project team
- Invited guests
- Ladies and gentlemen
- Good morning, Goeie more, Molweni,
It is an honour to be here today to be part of the much-anticipated re-opening of the Swartberg Pass in Prince Albert. This R10 million reconstruction project has been almost a year in the making, following the April flash flood last year, which washed away the section of the pass between its entrance on the Prince Albert side of the Swartberg Mountain and Tweede Water. This road will have far-reaching economic benefits for this region, linking the Great Karoo and the Klein Karoo.
A major economic driver to both Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn is tourism. Tourism activities include annual visits to the Swartberg Pass. For this reason, restoring the pass to its normal operations became of top priority for the Department of Transport and Public Works and the Municipality.
The Swartberg Pass became a crucial alternative route to the then-existing links, Meiringspoort and Seweweekspoort, between the Great and Klein Karoo which were often prone to flooding, causing serious damage and reducing access.
The strategic importance of the Swartberg Pass was understood even back in 1881 when construction began. So richly steeped in history, the pass now forms part of the Western Cape Government’s provincial road network, and is managed by our Road Network Management Branch.
Our greater roads network remains a critical asset of this department, having a replacement cost value which is in excess of R100 billion. So important is this asset, that just this financial year alone, we have allocated R3.588 billion to the construction and maintenance of transport infrastructure, forming a significant portion of the spend of this department. Our network not only carries the bulk of the traffic in this province, but also provides key economic linkages between communities and regions.
The Swartberg Pass project that we commemorate today comprised the rebuilding of retaining structures, road layerworks, and re-gravelling of flood-damaged portions of the road. Approximately 180 m of retaining structures were rebuilt, with the re-gravelling of the damaged portion also undertaken. Repairs to retaining structures were deemed necessary to support the base layers of the road bed. A further four kilometres of road which experienced heavy gravel loss because of heavy rain were also re-gravelled as part of the project.
The initial project program estimated an 18-month construction period following the timeline below:
- 9 April 2017 – 2.38km of the Swartberg Pass is damaged.
- 12 April 2017 – Initial assessment of damage is concluded.
- 13 April 2017 – Clean up and construction commences.
- 19 October 2017 – Stone walls and re-gravel largely completed. Pass opens to traffic on weekends the following day.
- 16 November 2017 – Stone walls completed to final road level and re-gravel completed. Pass permanently opens the following day to traffic.
- March 2018 - Completion of stone wall reconstruction.
The project was in fact completed in just under a year.
This “in-house” project saw the appointment of an additional 16 temporary local workers during the project. There is also one skilled worker doing the wall reconstruction work. The construction team responsible for the reconstruction of the wall received training in the packing of dry walls to help develop their skills. Plant operators were also hired when necessary. We were fortunate to have the rest of the project team from our Outshoorn District Regional Engineer (DRE) Office and the Eden District Municipality, thereby significantly reducing the cost of the project. I have no doubt that we, as a department, are sufficiently prepared to respond to any eventuality, by calling on the expertise that we have nurtured internally.
On the 9th of November last year, I paid a visit to this site ahead of its scheduled opening to the public. I was impressed by the work that the team had achieved during a few months. The team’s commitment to a high standard of work is evident in the final product, which they can all be proud of.
I must take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the successful implementation of this important project. The urgent need for the project, following the flood damage, required a concerted effort from the entire team, as well as the support of local businesses and the community. A particular thanks to the Swartberg Pass Action Group, which I established last year, who vigilantly met to keep interested parties informed about the progress on this project on a regular basis.
I must also thank our partners in the Prince Albert Municipality and the Eden District Municipality for their commitment to seeing this project come to fruition.
Thank you all for being here today. May this pass continue to be of service to the local community, and draw more and more visitors along this historic route. I look forward to seeing the economic potential that the Swartberg Pass will unlock in the future.