Gautrain fast-tracks Gauteng’s glitterama

2011-10-29 09:54

But fails as a spinning cog within an integrated transport system

Integration with other transport modes was the deal clincher when Cabinet gave the Gautrain the nod in December 2005.

The Gautrain system has decreased travel time between Joburg and Pretoria considerably, while leaving behind Soweto and Soshanguve.

It appears that the system was further designed to avoid Tembisa and Ivory Park on its way to Pretoria, thereby making it a questionable integrated public transport system.

One that is technically efficient but inconsiderate of the larger socioeconomic context.

Despite the emphasis on integration that went into securing Cabinet approval and the subsequent public funding for the project, the Bombela Concession Company (BCC) is still to give a report on the success or failure of the integration.

Success can be a slippery concept to measure, particularly for a project such as the Gautrain, and this can explain why, instead of reporting on critical performance areas, the BCC chooses to go number crunching which, on closer inspection, does very little to answer the most critical question: what is the impact and benefit of the Gautrain’s operations to date?

The Gautrain is very complex with many stakeholders involved in its planning, regulation, operations and maintenance.

Who, after all, can lay claim to speak authoritatively on the Gautrain’s impact and level of integration with other modes of transport if operators of the system are silent on this critical matter?

In an attempt to find answers to this critical question and also to get a sense of the extent to which the Gautrain is part of a broader integrated transport system, I drove to Rhodesfield Station to take the Metrorail Business Express to Pretoria.

On arriving at the station, I found two entrances, if not two stations, one for Metrorail and the other for Gautrain.

Having one entrance to the station could have contributed to the much-needed social integration without compromising the economics of the Gautrain as there is gate control by ticket examiners to get to the platforms for both trains.

I was advised that Metrorail Business Express does not stop in Rhodesfield Station but in Kempton Park.

I also discovered that even if I was to take the Metrorail Plus (business class), which stops at Rhodesfield, the cost of parking at R80 will be far more than the R12 for a single trip to Pretoria.

Seeing the difficulty I experienced as a motorist trying to use Metrorail at Rhodesfield Station, I decided to look around and see how other Metrorail passengers accessed the station.

There were no minibus taxis and the Gautrain Bus cost R6 a trip. I discovered that walking is the most popular way to get to the station.

On paper, the Gautrain looks like an integrated transport system, but the reality on the ground suggests otherwise.

Insufficient infrastructure provision for walking, despite the high demand for it, shows little commitment to integrating Gautrain with non-motorised transport.

There is an urgent need to keep an eye on the performance and results of the Gautrain at the highest level possible.

Until then, the Gautrain will remain an investment that just bolsters Gauteng’s image by reducing the travel times between Pretoria and Joburg.

» Baloyi is an environment and development activist and writes in his personal capacity 

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