Urban migration 'putting pressure' on Gauteng's public transport

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Johannesburg - Gauteng's population is projected to double over the next 25 years, placing increased pressure on public transport, Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi has said.

"Gauteng's population has doubled in the last 20 years. We got our 25-year plan - the integrated master plan," Vadi told News24.

"They've forecasted that, and we're predicting that, again, in the next 25 years the population will double. I think that trend, at this stage, we can say that's the trend.

"Stats SA did a census in October 2011. Gauteng's figure was 12.3 million. 2011, 2012, 2013, we are now on to either 12.9 or 13 million already."The department had a ballpark figure of around 20 000 people coming into Gauteng every month from across the country, Southern Africa, and overseas.

Pressure on government

"It puts a lot of pressure on government because you then have to provide schooling, health facilities, housing, so it's not just roads and transport," Vadi says.

"I know the education department, every year it struggles. They've got an upfront student enrolment programme and they start I think now already, but come the first day of school next year parents will be waiting at the school gate, wanting admission."

"Where do they come from? Where were they for the last nine months when schools were doing enrolments and those kinds of things."

It was a symptom of the migration, and in terms of transport, it pressurised the province's road network and public transport.

"Many of those who are coming into the province are not necessarily economically productive. They are in search of employment and therefore they rely on a cheap and affordable and reliable public transport system, and we’re trying to play catch up and trying to build that public transport system," Vadi says.

"I think we got the core elements, but it's not fully integrated. It's not extensive enough, it doesn't allow for seamless movement from one point to the other, and therefore the very, very heavy reliance on the taxi industry."

The province's approach to public transport was three-fold, with Vadi believing the biggest initiative from national, provincial and local government was the bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

Bus rapid transit

"Joburg is leading with that, they've got two phases rolled out in the Rea Vaya. Tshwane has started now with A Re Yeng. The first phase is ready, they're busy extending the first phase, and then hopefully by April next year, Ekurhuleni will have the first phase up and running also," Vadi says.

"This is a five-year programme for all of the metropolitan municipalities. If we complete all of these projects on time, as planned, we would have probably about 700km to 800km of BRT network running into the all the metropolitan municipalities."

He said the role of the province was to connect the different systems, which are confined within the boundaries of the different metros.

"One needs to create some kind of interconnectivity between these systems, so we are identifying intermodal points where you can say hop off Rea Vaya and then hop onto A Re Yeng, so that you can have movement from here to Pretoria," Vadi says.

Gautrain's success

The second element of public transport was the Gautrain, with the project's first phase having been completed.

"I think all the signs are that it is a very successful project. Ridership on average is growing at 2% every month. The latest figures we've got is 55 000 passengers daily, about 1.3 million every month. We are now busy with the planning for the second phase of the Gautrain which is an extension, a completely new development," the MEC says.

"The pre-feasibility study says there is a basis for that. We are busy with the feasibility study which should be ready by the middle of next year and based on that report, we can then go to National Treasury, get some funding from the provincial treasury then approach the market for major investment."

The second phase of Gautrain's development would be a 10-year project. While Vadi wished it could be easier, when it came to multi-term projects, especially large ones like the Gautrain, rolling out public transport infrastructure took time.

Revitalising Metrorail

The third element towards getting public transport right in Gauteng was Metrorail.

"Metrorail moves about a million people daily. It's an old, rickety system, and I think we really, really have to put a lot of energy rebuilding that system, revitalising it," Vadi says.

"Hopefully the first signs of that will materialise later this year. Round about November, we're expecting the first 20 coaches to come, 20 trains. Their's, I think, will be a 10 or 15-year programme. In total they’ll be getting about 6 000 to 8 000 new coaches. For Gauteng, we should be getting about 2 800 new coaches over the next decade."

Coupled with the new coaches was the modernisation of the signalling system, which Vadi says at present was an old cable network which was manually operated.

"Everything is done manually and that's why you have these accidents. They busy setting up a new control centre," he says.

"It should be ready by October this year; fibre-optic cabling, with a very modern control room signalling system. The technology has to change, the rail technology has to change, so that's the new coaches."

It was not a quick fix, with the turn-around time being around 10 years, but Vadi said the National Treasury had made a commitment to finance and fund these developments.

"The horizon looks good, but I wish it would've been done yesterday," Vadi says.

Read more on:    metrorail  |  gautrain  |  rea vaya  |  ismail vadi  |  johannesburg  |  transport

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