Riding on the bullet train to your dream city

2019-06-25 08:41
JR East unveils to the media its new test bullet train "ALFA-X" in Rifu, Miyagi prefecture on May 9, 2019.

JR East unveils to the media its new test bullet train "ALFA-X" in Rifu, Miyagi prefecture on May 9, 2019. (JIJI PRESS / AFP)

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Dear Mr President,

I read your speech and listened as fellow South African shared their views on your 2019 SONA.

As a citizen, who has lived in three cities in South Africa, I am intrigued by your dream of a new city, especially its bullet train. I hope the bullet train becomes a reality as it is needed by many South Africans.

I hope the bullet train will be accessible to many citizens who are unable to access the existing, elitist and taxpayer-funded bullet train, namely the Gautrain. At this stage, you are surely familiar with research that points to the fact that a poor black worker in South Africa spends nearly two-thirds of their income on transport to and from work. This is mainly due to the failure to break the apartheid spatial planning. It is also the majority of citizens who have to contend with unsafe and unreliable public transport. You have also experienced this unreliability when you were derailed with hundreds of commuters on a Prasa train in Tshwane.

I hope, if or when your dream becomes a reality, that the citizens who leave their homes very early in the morning, to catch two or three modes of transport to work; who often fall prey to dangerous criminals, lurking in dark corners of their neighborhoods, will be the prioritised passenger group on your bullet train.

I hope the bullet train’s route will prioritise the children who leave their homes early in the morning, taking unsafe public transport, to attend schools that are sometimes located 30 kilometres from their homes. Again, the failure to provide quality education in schools located in townships has forced many parents to send their children to former Model-C schools far from their homes.

Also, the bullet train would have to enable the sick and the aged to get to healthcare centres; and help ferry matriculants and other learners, that want to access quiet study areas in public libraries when preparing for tests and exams; as well as those seeking services from other organs of the state and commercial centres.

It would also have to provide transport to the unemployed, including the hundreds of unemployed graduates, who have to travel distances, using scant financial resources, in their search for work. Affordability and the quality of service, over and above access, will have to be at the heart of this dream (our reality) train.

Because Mr President, the right to transport is indivisible to the right to dignity, education, healthcare, gender equality and other urgent needs of the majority of citizens of South Africa.  I also hope, as citizens, we are not going to wait too long for this bullet train.

- Phumeza Mgxashe is currently is reading for an MPhil: Inclusive Innovation and her research is focused on the REIPPPP community benefits element.

Read more on:    cyril rama­phosa
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