Gautrain irrelevant for township people, says student researcher

The Gautrain is good for connecting major economic nodes but is irrelevant to transforming the spatial reality for disadvantaged South Africans, according to Bongumusa Ndwandwe, a masters student at North-West University.

He spoke about his research at the Planning Africa 2018 conference in Cape Town. 

"Unfortunately, the Gautrain cannot penetrate our dense townships. It perpetuates apartheid planning," said Ndwandwe.

"The ones who previously benefitted can afford the Gautrain, while the ones who need public transport and spend 70% of their income on transport, cannot afford the Gautrain. They rather keep on paying lower taxi fares."

In his view the billions invested in the Gautrain could rather have been used to provide more efficient transport for township people.

"Transportation should respond to the needs of township people by, for instance, making the taxi industry more self-sustainable," he said.

For him it is also not just about designing stations, but about making sure informal traders are also incorporated.

"Government has a role to play here. You can design a Gautrain station, for instance, to have informal traders in the station," he said.

"Public transport infrastructure is the backbone of functionality of cities and communities, but that kind of investment does not always translate into actual spatial transformation. Look at multi-disciplinary planning to include social development."

For Ndwandwe it is not just about providing transport. Spatial integration should become a focal point of discussion so that disadvantaged people can be empowered by creating opportunities for them.

During question time a man in the audience who said he works in planning, said the rail system in Cape Town has effectively collapsed and is affecting the poorest of the poor the most.

In his view, government should look at alternative ways outside the current inefficient state-owned enterprise model, to deliver public transport.

Thendo Mafame, who did research around the Du Toit train station in Stellenbosch, called for a trans-disciplinary approach, which goes beyond just academia and also engages with stakeholders in the field being researched. It is an integrated approach.

De Wet de Ridder, also a student at North-West University, said his thesis research conclusion is that, in aligning land use and transportation planning, one has to enhance the safety of users of the transport infrastructure.

Transportation planning should include safety factors for users.

"There should be an alignment between land uses and transportation planning, including for pedestrians. Look at the reasons why users feel unsafe and address these," he said.

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