Bridge will link Naledi and Protea

Mayor Parks Tau turning the sod at the start of the bridge buildingMayor Parks Tau turning the sod at the start of the bridge building

For decades the Soweto suburbs have been divided by a railway line. Now a new bridge linking the two will ease the flow of traffic. It is the next step in the City's Corridors of Freedom strategy.

The new stormwater drains will be able to prevent drownings as they will be closedThe new stormwater drains will be able to prevent drownings as they will be closedThe people Naledi and Protea in Soweto are about to experience the meaning of the City's Corridors of Freedom campaign – a new bridge being built will link the two suburbs.

A train track has separated the two for years. This has meant that either one takes the long route around, which takes about 15 minutes, or one jumps the railway line. The latter is very dangerous and has resulted in many fatalities over the years. Many others have also been arrested for crossing the unfenced railway line illegally.

Corridors of Freedom was introduced by Executive Mayor Parks Tau in his State of the City address in May 2013. The programme is an effort to undo some of apartheid's spatial planning, which the regime used to separate people on the basis of race.

A city at work

The drains being upgradedThe drains being upgradedThe new bridge will enable residents to access services that are available on either side of the rail line, including clinics, schools and sport facilities. Tau and mayoral committee member for transport Christine Walters unveiled a board and turned the sod to mark the start of the project in June. The bridge will cost R50-million and is to be completed by September 2015.

Tau promised local residents they would benefit through the 100 job opportunities that would be available through the project. "This is a picture of a city at work. I remember crossing this railway line during the height of apartheid, having to hide from the police. It was very risky; [now] no one has to go through that again because we are correcting the mistakes of apartheid's legacy," said Tau.

The bridge is one of several projects of the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA). Skhumbuzo Macozoma, the managing director of the agency, said: "The well-being of our communities is a priority for the JRA and the main objective this project is to improve safety for all road users whilst also alleviating poverty and unemployment through job creation and skills development."

Other infrastructure projects

The JRA is undertaking two other infrastructure developments in Soweto, namely: the Gravel Roads Upgrade and the Dobsonville Storm Water Drains Upgrade.

Under the first, Joburg roads that have not been tarred yet since the democratic government took over will finally get black top. The budget for this is R161-million. Areas that will or have benefitted from this programme include: Diepsloot, Bram Fischerville, Doornkop, Orange Farm, Thulani, Tshepisong and Lawley.

Under the second project, storm water drains in Dobsonville Extension 3 are being upgraded at a cost of R6.2-million. The project will improve storm water drainage and minimise flooding. About 40 jobs have been created for locals through this programme. It will also prevent children from drowning in drains because it includes the conversion of the open drain system to a closed system.

"The JRA is committed to rendering visible service delivery to the communities of the city of Johannesburg. Almost all these projects were requested by the communities through the City's consultative processes. People in these areas requested service delivery and the JRA responded by delivering on its mandate to provide quality roads that are accessible, safe and liveable," said Macozoma.