Zululand Observer - Weekender
‘Death trap’ anger
THE notorious John Ross highway’s EcoJunction intersection claimed the life of a young father on Monday night, leaving emergency personnel shaking their heads in despair, while the public is in uproar.
‘Traffic lights at the Melomed Hospital and Tangawizi Motors crossing are desperately needed. We were told they were going to be installed, but nothing is being done,’ said SA Roads Federation (SARF) Vice Chairman, Mike Patterson.
He was speaking after the accident that saw Tancred Britz (38) of Richards Bay, and previously Mtunzini, die instantly after his car hit a truck at around 6pm.
Tancred was driving his hatchback sedan from Empangeni towards Richards Bay when he struck a container truck that was turning right from the Richards Bay lane to the BP petrol station.
The sedan smashed into and under the trailer of the truck, and was sheered in half.
The traumatised truck driver fled the scene.
Both lanes of the Richards Bay-bound highway were closed as rescue services cleared the road of debris.
The frustration of the emergency personnel on scene was tangible.
‘We have been at this place too many times now,’ said one rescue official.
‘We just can’t understand why nothing is being done, because we have been told the lights are lying somewhere. ‘They have been trapping for speed during the day, but why aren’t they putting up the lights?’
City Mayor Mdu Mhlongo responded tersely to the accident through Communications Manager Mdu Ncalane.
‘The city is in the process of procuring traffic light equipment and ensuring all necessary requirements are met before installing the lights.’
Someone is lying to Exco, Council and the community of the City of uMhlathuze and I will not let this rest - Councillor Fourie
Where are the missing traffic lights?
City Councillor Louis Fourie said the traffic lights in question have been ordered by the city, but wanted to know what the delay was in installing them.
‘In March, the Infrastructure Department - on record - told Exco the traffic lights were ready to be installed, but when I alerted city officials to the tragic death at this accident, I received a text message saying ‘the traffic lights have been ordered’.
‘I have personally - along with several other business people and councillors - minuted the ongoing request for traffic calming from the planning phase of the new road (John Ross highway) through the construction of the EcoJunction and Melomed Hospital,’ he said.
‘We were told in February that the lights were in a storeroom and we were simply waiting for them to be installed.
‘Someone is lying to Exco, Council and the community of the City of uMhlathuze, and I will not let this rest,’ he said.
Roads Federation going unheard
Patterson said repeated warnings about the danger of this intersection have not been heeded by topranking city officials.
‘I believe that traffic lights were purchased as far back as the construction phase of the EcoJunction.
‘The Zululand Chamber of Business Foundation has tried to speed up the installation, as has the National Roads Federation - but with no joy.
‘We have been led to every pillar and post on this issue and it now lies with our city’s top officials,’ he said.
When questioned about the feasibility of a traffic circle rather than traffic lights, Patterson explained why the former was the better, faster solution.
‘A traffic circle is a major construction undertaking that should have been considered many years ago as a forward-planning exercise.
‘It takes up a lot of space and is expensive and disruptive.
‘Traffic lights are the clear, affordable and fast way to solve this problem immediately, and they should have been installed when the hospital opened.’
Public petition gains support
Within an hour of the accident, members of the community started an online petition for the intersection to be fitted with traffic calming measures.
The petition on Change.org, which is called ‘Melomed Ecojunction Robot/Traffic Circle/Humps Needed’ was signed by more than 800 people by Tuesday morning and showed around 2 000 signatures at the time of going to print.
Chavaugn Syffert said she started the petition as she commutes through the intersection several times a day, and has to endure the ‘nightmare’ of crossing the John Ross highway.
‘There was bound to be a tragedy like this and it’s extremely sad that there is still no robot up there.
‘How many more people have to die there before someone in authority realises it’s a problem?’