- Murray & Roberts holds a 50% stake in the Bombela Concession Company that operates the Gautrain.
- The company says daily commuter numbers had dropped from 55 000 to 13 000 since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
- The Gautrain service has been hit by new patterns in the daily commute of office workers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has slashed the Gautrain daily passenger numbers by more than a third, the company's concession partner said on Wednesday.
According to Murray & Roberts, the entity which holds a 50% stake in the Bombela Concession Company, ridership was currently at 13 000 per day, compared to 55 000 seen before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. That's a drop of more than 76%.
The Gautrain operates between Johannesburg and Pretoria as well as the OR Tambo International Airport, largely ferrying office workers between the cities. But the pandemic, which saw a significant number of companies switch to home-based work, has impacted numbers. Air travel restrictions have also dampened the commute between the airport and the two cities.
Murray & Roberts CEO Henry Laas said the company's investment and fair value adjustments were very much linked to ridership numbers and Covid-19 has presented a difficult scenario.
He said before Covid-19, daily commuter numbers were at about 55 000 and "currently we are doing about 13 000 passengers a day."
"It is a difficult space and we need to look at ridership levels to increase, but under the current Covid-19 scenario it is very difficult to increase ridership levels," he said.
The Gautrain service was halted at the beginning of the hard lockdown on 26 March 2020 and reopened on 4 May, amid reduced capacity. Laas said the company had used the proceeds from an insurance claim to repay some of the high interest debt incurred in the concession.
"We have in the past couple of months successfully closed an insurance claim with Alliance, a business disruption claim.
"It was a claim that was settled at R285 million and proceeds from the claim were used to repay some of the high-interest debt that we had in the concession. That obviously is going to reduce some of the exposure going forward," he said.
Bombela holds the 15-year concession for operating and maintaining the Gautrain system until March 2026. In 2017, Murray & Roberts increased its stake in Bombela to 50%, in a deal worth R405 million.