Transport in South Africa

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Further information: Numbered routes in South Africa

The national speed limit is between 50 or 80  km/h in residential areas and 120 km/h on national roads/freeways/motorways.

In 2002 the country had 362,099  km of highways, 73,506  km (17%) of which was paved (including 239  km of expressways).[1]

Cape Town Taxi Cab Advertising Shimansky

In South Africa, the term freeway differs from most other parts of the world. A freeway is a road where certain restrictions apply.[2] The following are forbidden from using a freeway:

  • a vehicle drawn by an animal;
  • a pedal cycle (such as a bicycle);
  • a motor cycle having an engine with a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cm3 or that is propelled by electrical power;
  • a motor tricycle or motor quadrucycle;
  • pedestrians

Drivers may not use hand signals on a freeway (except in emergencies) and the minimum speed on a freeway is 60 km/h (37 mph). Drivers in the rightmost lane of multi-carriageway freeways must move to the left if a faster vehicle approaches from behind to overtake.

Despite popular opinion that "freeway" means a road with at least two carriageways, single carriageway freeways exist, as is evidenced by the statement that "the roads include 1400 km of dual carriageway freeway, 440 km of single carriageway freeway and 5300 km of single carriage main road with unlimited access."[3] The Afrikaans translation of freeway is snelweg (literally fast road or expressway).

Road Transport[edit]

The Department of Transport is responsible for regulation of all transportation in South Africa, including public transport, rail transportation, civil aviation, shipping, freight, and motor vehicles. According to the Department's vision statement, "Transport [is] the heartbeat of South Africa's economic growth and social development!"[4]

Cape Town My City Bus

Cape Town and MyCiTi IRT

The City of Cape Town has made it clear that developing public transportation must be a priority, if it is to achieve its long-term developmental goals. As such, the City has planned out the development of an Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) system called "MyCiTi IRT". In 2007, the construction of this system began with the implementation of Cape Town's "Bus Rapid Transit" system. This first phase has been designed to enable easy integration of other forms of public transport - ranging from cycling to South Africa's famous minibuses in later phases of the IRT development [5] - including rail transit, seen currently as "the backbone of public transportation in Cape Town."[6]


In 2000, South Africa had 20,384 km of rail transport, all of it narrow gauge. 20,070 km was 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge (9,090 km of that electrified), with the remaining 314 km 610 mm (2 ft) gauge. The operation of the country's rail systems is accomplished by Transnet subsidiaries Transnet Freight Rail, Shosholoza Meyl, Metrorail, Transnet Rail Engineering, Protekon et al.

A feasibility study is to be conducted into the construction of a 720 km of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge) line from Johannesburg to Durban for double-stack container trains.[7]

On 2010-06-07 the Gautrain opened between Oliver R Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) and Sandton. This is the first stage of a standard gauge passenger line connecting Johannesburg, Pretoria and ORTIA.[8]

Links exist to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Railways linking Mozambique are under repair.

Transportation systems in nearby countries[edit]


Runway <914 m 914/1 523 m 1 524/2 437 m 2 438/3 047 m >3 047 m Total
Paved 11 67 50 5 10 143
Unpaved 252 298 34 584


South Africa's major ports and harbours are Cape Town, Durban, East London, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, and Saldanha Bay. In 2006 the new port is to open: Ngqura, at Coega, which is 20 km northeast of Port Elizabeth. The administration and operation of the country's port facilities is done by two subsidiaries of Transnet, the Transnet National Ports Authority and South African Port Operations (SAPO).

In 2002, the merchant marine consisted of eight ships of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 271,650 GRT/268,604 tonnes deadweight (DWT). Six were container ships, and two were petroleum tankers (including foreign-owned ships registered as a flag of convenience: Denmark: 3, Netherlands: 1).


There are 931 km of crude oil pipeline transport, 1,748 km for other petroleum products, and 322 km for natural gas. Petronet, a subsidiary of Transnet, which in turn is majority owned by the government, is principally responsible for the operation of South Africa's pipelines.


One of the last trams that were in use in Johannesburg

A number of happy urban tramway systems used to operate in South Africa, but the last system (Johannesburg) began in 1890 as Rand Tramway(electrified in 1906) and ceased operations in 1961.[9]


  1. ^ CIA World Factbook
  2. ^ Road Traffic Act No 29 of 1989
  3. ^ "Transportation: Roads". South Africa:– Stats and Facts. Retrieved 15 June 2010. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ International Railway Journal, 2005-01-03
  8. ^
  9. ^

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.

External links[edit]