The Automobile Association (AA) has called on the Gauteng provincial government to reject the proposed route extensions for the Gautrain express rail network as it will perpetuate a system that serves the province’s minority of citizens rather than the mass market.
In a detailed presentation, the AA also highlighted several factors that it believes negate Gautrain’s extension, including the fact that current demand in the system is low and economic viability cannot be established within reasonable risk parameters.
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However, the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) noted that the route of the proposed extensions to the Gautrain network has not yet been finalized.
The GMA said that the route determination process that is currently underway is legislated through Section 6 of the Gauteng Transportation Infrastructure Act (GTIA), which is the first step in the process of defining the rail reserve. for the future railway line of Gautrain Rapid Rail Integrated. Project Network (GRRIN).
He said the purpose of this process is to identify the best possible route, which, when determined, results in a 200-meter swath on either side of the proposed alignment that will be protected by Gauteng province.
The GMA said it responds to all comments it receives and these comments and responses are compiled into a report that, along with the proposed route alignment documentation, is submitted to the MEC of Road Infrastructure and Public Transportation (MEC) for its consideration. as part of the process to determine the final route.
“The next step in the process is to undertake the preliminary design of the proposed rail system and include a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
“This is also a legal requirement in terms of the GTIA and entails greater consultation with all interested and affected parties,” he said.
Gautrain’s current network comprises 80km of rail along two route links: a link between Tshwane and Johannesburg and a link between OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton.
Gautrain 2 proposes to build another 150 km of railroad and 19 more stations, with the proposed first phase comprising a new line from Marlboro through Sandton and Randburg to Cosmo City and then to Little Falls.
Lanseria is the final destination for a proposed rail service that runs east-west between the two airports in a later proposed phase.
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The second phase of the proposed expansion will extend the line from Little Falls through Roodepoort to Jabulani in north Soweto.
Three more proposed phases are envisaged to complete the network.
The GMA has been collaborating with the National Treasury on Gautrain’s proposed expansion project, including other sources of funding for the proposed project and the need to get people off roads and carbon-intensive modes of transportation.
It emerged during a virtual roundtable in September 2020 that motorists and taxpayers would become the source of revenue to allow the government to reduce its percentage of funding for the proposed Gautrain expansion by billions of rands.
William Dachs, CEO of GMA, said: “We strongly believe that people who travel in cars do not pay their fair share in terms of the taxes they pay and the failure of the electronic toll system has perpetuated that problem.”
The AA said that the Gautrain does not carry enough passengers currently and spending valuable financial resources now to continue with a system that is not in demand, at the expense of better, more efficient and more affordable transportation, does not make any sense.
“We are in favor of alternatives that provide solutions to the use of vehicles and that reduce pollution and congestion, but the Gautrain is not that solution,” he said.
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The AA added that the low use of Gautrain puts additional pressure on the province’s transportation budget, which effectively means that other transportation options are not adequately financed and again hurts the mass market, which needs it most.
‘Shameful and outrageous’ sponsorship guarantee
The AA is also critical of the sponsorship guarantee, a subsidy to Compañía Concesionaria Bombela (BCC), which operates Gautrain, when its total revenues are below a contractually agreed amount.
He said the sponsorship guarantee is “an embarrassing and outrageous deal that has cost taxpayers nearly R12 billion since 2012 just because not enough people see the value in using the Gautrain.”
The AA urged the Gauteng provincial government to invest heavily in creating a provincial-wide bus system as the most appropriate solution for public transport in Gauteng.
“Provision of safe bike lanes and solutions for those who walk the ‘last mile’ to work and home should also be considered. This has inexpensive infrastructure requirements and will be integrated with all other modes of transportation.
“It will also encourage non-motorized transportation and make profitable travel available to all citizens,” he said.
The AA said that instead of solving the serious transportation crisis in the province, Gautrain has become “a system for the rich who, in any case, have access to other modes of transportation.”
“Expanding Gautrain’s services is now financially inappropriate and unacceptable, and the process must stop immediately,” he said.
The Competition Commission said in February 2019 when it released its preliminary report on its market research on public land passenger transport that it believed Gautrain was a major policy error.
He recommended that the Gauteng provincial government take over Metrorail and integrate it with Gautrain to run “a single system that does not separate people by class.”
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The GMA said that the Gauteng provincial government in 2013 completed a 25-year Gauteng Integrated Transportation Master Plan (GITMP25), which included transportation models that predicted a significant increase in traffic congestion, travel times and challenges. partners, including greenhouse emissions from 2025.
He said that the result of this affirms, among other things, that the passenger rail network should be the backbone of a modernized and integrated transportation system in the province.
The GMA said that the Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport in 2014 tasked the agency with developing a comprehensive strategy to improve mobility in Gauteng, which involved conducting a comprehensive feasibility study to investigate possible extensions to the Gautrain.
He said this feasibility study, completed in 2016, concluded that the Gautrain extensions will provide significant economic and transportation-related benefits.
These included the transformative impact on the Gauteng economy; the modernization of public transport; greener transportation solutions for a healthier community; passenger access and mobility; better spatial development; environmental impact; increased local content; business development; and job creation and poverty alleviation.
The GMA said that this feasibility study is currently subject to the approval process of the National Treasury, which will allow the initiation of acquisitions for Phase 1 of the extensions project.
“The GRRIN extensions will therefore be part of a modernized and integrated transport system that enables sustainable mobility in the future and are therefore part of the entire public transport system in Gauteng and not just the service of Gautrain, ”he said.