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Aug 31, 2012

Gauteng gears up for next public transport investment phase

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The Gauteng province has seen around R30-billion in expenditure on public transport infrastructure in recent years, largely through the development of the Gautrain and Johannesburg bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, and should see another, similar amount invested over the next five to ten years, says Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi.

The new tranche of funding will be directed at projects such as construction of the Tshwane BRT and upgrading of the Metrorail system.

However, “this will not be enough”.

“There are 11-million people in Gauteng; over the next 25 years, this will increase to 16-million. If we do not have a public transport plan, we won’t be able to cope,” he notes.

This is why Vadi has kick-started the compilation of a 25-year integrated transport master plan for the province, which is currently being drawn up by consultants, and which he hopes “to receive by the middle of next year”.

However, the process to develop the plan has also yielded a five-year Gauteng Transport Implementation Plan (GTIP5), with 11 short-term initiatives to “unblock the system” and increase efficiencies.

The GTIP5 presents some “workable, practical proposals”, he notes. The document is currently open for public comment.

Vadi says it is possible to roll out some of these short-term initiatives “by the end of the year . . . next year”, as a basis for “restructuring our transport systems”.

One of the proposals of the GTIP5 is the establishment of a provincewide transport authority, acting as an overarching body with a coordinating role between, for example, the different BRT systems and the Gautrain Management Agency.

“Everyone operates in silos now. Eighty per cent of the province’s population live in three metros. If money from all the spheres of government is put in one pool, we can have more effective public transport.”

Vadi says Gauteng also requires a centralised passenger information system. Should a tourist, for example, fly in to Johannesburg and wish to go to Dinokeng, there is not a single centre which can tell him how to do so by means of public transport.

He says Gauteng can, for example, establish a call centre which can provide information for commuters and tourists on scheduling and timetables.

Another short-term initiative is to implement the use of a single ticketing system between different modes of public transport, says Vadi.

“At least the government services, such as the Gautrain, Metrobus, Metrorail and the BRT system can use the same ticket. Maybe later we can incorporate taxis.

“I don’t think it would be too difficult to roll this out over the next 12 to 18 months.”

Vadi would also like to see up to 50 km of cycle and pedestrian pathways in cities around Gauteng over the next five years.

Looking at other initiatives of the GTIP5, Vadi says fewer than 10% of people currently use the rail system in Gauteng.

“The overhaul of the Metrorail system is vital. If the population doubles, we can’t have more taxis, more cars. Rail has to be the backbone of a global city region.”

Minibus taxis are a bit of a headache for the Gauteng government.

Vadi says the 50 000 to 59 000 taxis in Gauteng are a “vital part of public transport” in the province, but are not regulated.

“Some are superb operators, but others are worst-case scenarios. How do we restructure the industry? We subsidise the rail and bus services, but not the taxi industry. How do we restructure the subsidy pot so we have a more fair system?”

Vadi says the Gauteng freight industry also requires attention, as 80% of all goods in Gauteng are moved by truck and 20% by rail, but this should be the other way around.

“We need to start changing that. The City Deep [container hub] probably started on the outskirts of the city, but now we have trucks coming in and out of it in peak hour traffic.”

Vadi said he expected “a massive fight from the truck industry” – “they are probably already knocking on my door” – but the current strategy is “not sustainable”.

He says his department has identified a “string of potential logistics hubs” on the periphery of the province, such as at Rosslyn, near Heidelberg, Krugersdorp and OR Tambo International Airport, from where goods can then be distributed into the province’s cities, instead of heavy containers being ferried directly into and out of the heart of Johannesburg.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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