Witvlag junction a danger to road users
A near fatal accident early last week at the N1/Witvlag-junction once again sparked arguments that the arrestor bed just outside of Makhado (Louis Trichardt) on the N1 north was built in the wrong place.
The driver of a Great North Transport bus full of passengers travelling on the Witvlag Road lost control of the vehicle upon approaching the N1-junction. The bus ploughed into the construction site where construction workers are busy upgrading the intersection. Although the bus was severely damaged, nobody was seriously injured. In the past, this junction has been the scene of many accidents, many of them fatal. This junction is considered by many as one of the most dangerous on the mountain pass.
Mr Kallie Röttcher, a landowner who frequently travels the road, says he has on numerous occasions warned road authorities of the dangerous situation at the junction, but nothing is being done to address the situation. Mr Röttcher argues that the arrestor bed at the bottom of the mountain pass, built to arrest runaway trucks and vehicles before entering the town, is located in the wrong place. He says that the arrestor bed would have served a better purpose if it had been built at the Witvlag/N1-junction. Mr Röttcher says that an arrestor bed here could be constructed in such a way that runaway vehicles travelling south on both the N1 and Witvlag Road could make use of it.
His sentiment is shared by farmer Mr Eric Maynier who own land adjacent to the intersection.
"In the past, I have found bodies on my farm due to accidents at this junction. This corner is a big problem, or rather a danger," Mr Maynier stated. He said the current upgrading of the junction is the biggest waste of money and added that, upon completion, the junction would be more dangerous than before. Mr Maynier says that the arrestor bed at the bottom of the mountain is fine, but that a second one should be constructed at the junction.
Mr Frank Vinkhumbo, manager of Great North Transport in Makhado, also said he agreed with both Mr Röttcher and Mr Maynier.
Mr Ismail Essa, SANRAL’s (South African National Road Agency) regional manager for the northern region responded to the arguments by saying that the principle of arrestor beds is to construct them at a point where a heavy vehicle gets into trouble in terms of brake or related mechanical failure. He said that, in the case of the Soutpansberg Mountain pass, this has been found to be in the last third of a descent.
"So the arrestor bed has been placed where it is for reasons of international design practice, as well as the geometry of the road at that point and the availability of suitable land to construct it on. This has been supplemented by the dedicated stop and crawler lane," Mr Essa said.
As for the current upgrading of the junction and arguments that it is being made more unsafe, Mr Essa said: "The upgrading of the Witvlag/N1-intersection is part of the normal upgrading of that section of the N1. We have, under this current contract, stabilised the slopes (both fill and cut) within the pass and added a crawler lane to the southbound lane as you exit the mountain pass that continues until the first intersection at Makhado. This was done in order to improve the road safety aspects of the road for heavy vehicles."