Paper presented at the 28th Annual Southern African Transport Conference 6 - 9 July 2009 "Sustainable Transport", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.
Modern transport systems are essential to exploit expanding agricultural, commercial and mining activities for the public good. Railway development and road improvements have gone hand in hand. During the 19th and early 20th century, railways expanded rapidly to provide low cost transport over great distances and to handle high traffic volumes over busy corridors and arterial routes. Roads were at first merely feeders to railways, expediting the collection and delivery of goods. As motor vehicle technology and road construction techniques improved in the 1920's the road became an alternative to the railway which came under increasing competitive pressure, particularly in the matter of lighter traffic density rural branch lines. Railway administrators in South Africa tended to view these lines in isolation, often ignoring their value in generating main line traffic. Because of this a programme of branch line closures began in the 1980's which led to an accelerated growth in road transport, not only in urban and rural areas but later for long-haul arterial traffic as well. But at what cost? This study investigates 'external' costs which are recognised as an important consideration in determining full transport costs of the overland transport modes. Unfortunately, many studies which have been undertaken during the last 20 or more years have approached the issues from different perspectives with varying methodologies and objectives. This has led to conclusions being expressed which have often been incomparable and misleading.
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