It must be understood that transportation is a means to an end. It supports quality of life and the economy if it delivers the services that individuals and institutions need, in such a way that the users are able to access the services, and that the services are effective and reliable. Access, reliability and effectiveness imply several issues, including sustainability of the services. If the appropriate transport infrastructure has been provided, and is functioning correctly, then they meet community aspirations, and reduce the cost to communities to access social services. Similarly, but from an economic development point of view, transport lowers the cost of production and consumption. Thus transportation is essential in the operation of a market economy and transport infrastructure is linked to economic growth.
The road network in Mpumalanga is the province's major asset, offering the province and the country a relatively significant competitive advantage. However, large sections of the network have been showing signs of severe stress for some time now, and in other cases, complete failure. This has created a relatively unreliable trading system, leaving prospective businesses at the mercy of unsafe and cumbersome trade routes. On average, transport costs are therefore higher than in other similar regions of the world.
It is also pertinent to note that like national and provincial roads, local circulation networks in municipalities (access roads, pedestrian bridges, paths, drainage systems, etc.) like other types of infrastructure are assets that can indeed be valued. And, like any commodity, deterioration of the condition and riding quality will result in the value of the asset dropping. The further the asset is allowed to deteriorate the more difficult and costly it becomes to restore, and the more the local economy will be adversely affected. Clearly, well-appointed infrastructure underpinned by beneficiary-oriented programs improves productivity, promotes employment creation, positively impacts income-growth, promotes regional integration and eventually irreversibly erodes poverty. Given that such investment in infrastructure is largely lumpy and costly, local authorities, particularly small municipalities which are at the coalface of development endeavours often are unable to raise the requisite investment funds, nor have the capacity to manage such funds if they were available. These authorities tend to depend on an outside system of economics to meet their requirements.
The responsibility for the total road network in Mpumalanga is shared among the three spheres of Government, as follows:
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