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Aug 29, 2008

Gautrain will not be a profitable venture – economist

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A leading economist has said that the R25-billion-plus Gautrain rapid-rail link will not operate profitably, as its fares will be way above what the average public transport user can afford.



“For five years, the Europe tunnel has not been making money, and there are many other railway lines in the world that are also not making money, because people prefer cars, and they prefer having personal mobility,” said T-Sec chief economist Mike Schüssler at the annual Rhode conference held in Johannesburg recently.

But for people who did not have cars, Schüssler remarked, the Gautrain was a good idea, because South Africa did not have a decent and reliable public passenger transport system.

“A lot of people do not want to get on a train or bus because they are scared that they might get mugged, raped or attacked,” he added.

Schüssler said that because the Gautrain would charge fares of up to R300 to trans-port tourists from OR Tambo International Airport to Sandton, it would price itself out of the market.

“Even if the Gautrain is a good transport idea, people will still have to take a taxi to travel from the station to their destination. It is quite clear that we are aiming this thing at the wrong arena. “For a lot of people, R300 is a lot of money, and if people from Alexandra want to go to the airport, they would rather use a taxi,” he said.

“Who uses public transport?” he asked, rhetorically adding, “Not many rich people are in trains, buses, or taxis – they are in cars. “When we do something for public transport, we need to think about the target market. And if we think we will get the guy with the Bentley to use the Gautrain, then we are mistaken. “We need to have a clear knowledge of what goes on around us before we make these decisions.”

Schüssler said that because of the Gautrain, government would introduce a tax for using the road channels to the airport, and between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and that government might use this as leverage to increase usage of the Gautrain transport system.

“Another way in which government can enforce the usage of the Gautrain is to build new roads, charge people 50c/km, increase this to R1/km and a few years later to R5/km to use the road.

“Currently, we have a lot of new people driving cars. The amount of cars on the road was six-million, which recently increased to over 8,2-million cars, and to increase the usage of the Gautrain system, the government will increase road taxes, making it impossible for people to travel to, for example, Pretoria from Johannesburg, or to the airport, because the taxes will be too high. “We need to think these things through a lot [more clearly] than we are doing at the moment,” he concluded.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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