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Thursday Dec 13, 2012

Durban property owners plan to take back their streets

Residents of the Bluff and Umbilo have had enough of heavy-duty trucks rumbling through their neighbourhoods, putting their lives at risk and causing monumental traffic jams.

And after four years of asking the government for help, they are taking matters into their own hands.

Trucks gridlock part of Umbilo Rd for hours.

The Umbilo Action Group's Vanessa Burger said the community organisation would soon convene a meeting to discuss the problem.

Trucks gridlocked part of Umbilo Road for hours on Tuesday morning, cutting off access to flats between the Sarnia Road intersection and the Khangela Bridge port entrance.

One of these blocks, Flamingo Court, houses more than 1 200 people and there are other blocks of similar size along the same stretch.

"They were cut off from emergency vehicles. It was a disaster waiting to happen," Burger said.

According to Morgan Subramany of the metro police, this was the result of a number of incidents, including seven broken-down trucks and an overturned crane.

The day before, roadworks and accidents also jammed the Sarnia Road flyover - crossing over Solomon Mahlangu (Edwin Swales) Drive - as well as a large stretch of Solomon Mahlangu Drive itself, for more than two hours.

Burger said the port expansion project was set to exacerbate the problem.

"The proposed link roads, which form part of the project, will probably worsen the situation by bringing about an eightfold escalation in traffic," she said.

The chairman of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Desmond D'Sa, said the communities of south Durban were united in opposing trucking on their roads.

Earlier this month the alliance led a protest that saw residents blockade Durban's container port for more than an hour.

"We counted close to 300 trucks backed up for kilometres while we picketed," said D'Sa.

He estimated that more than 2 000 trucks had entered the harbour that day.

Gavin Kelly, the technical and operations manager at the Road Freight Association, said yesterday that the influx of trucks was symptomatic of the time of year.

"The service provided by Transnet Port Terminals is not functioning optimally or there are delays," he said.

Speaking on behalf of the police, Subramany said it was difficult to restrict the number of trucks moving in and out of the port and added that there was no legislation to govern the movement of trucks under these conditions.

Carlos Esteves of the eThekwini Transport Authority said the city was devising a plan to manage trucking in Durban.

"Three key initiatives in progress include a new route to facilitate movement from the port to the N2, a freight strategy document for the city, as well as freight vehicle holding areas at various locations around the city," said Esteves.

But these efforts may be too little, too late.

"All official channels through which to address this problem have already been exhausted," said Burger, adding that she believed it was only through "unity and mass mobilisation" that any meaningful results would be achieved.

The Mercury

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