Newly appointed Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO William Dachs’s first goal is to ensure the Gautrain rail system remains an “excellent, safe and reliable mode of public transport”.
It is also important to retain the GMA’s pristine governance record.
The GMA manages the Gautrain system on behalf of its owner, the Gauteng provincial government.
Dachs took over the reins at the GMA following the retirement of long-time boss, Jack van der Merwe.
Dachs’s second goal is to increase the capacity of the Gautrain so that it can carry more passengers. This will, in turn, reduce the patronage guarantee the State has to pay to the Gautrain operator, Bombela.
Two tenders are currently out to do exactly this, through the acquisition and refurbishment of new rolling stock.
The third goal is to plan for the end of the current concession period, in 2026, and the appointment of a new concessionaire.
A fourth goal will be to implement the planned network extensions to the current 80 km Gautrain network, says Dachs.
The feasibility study on a planned 150 km of additional routes and 19 new stations has already been completed.
Another important goal for Dachs’s tenure is to improve the Gautrain’s integration into South Africa’s public transport landscape.
Dachs believes the establishment of the Gauteng Transport Authority, under the interim leadership of Van der Merwe, will create a more logical, coordinated approach to public transport within Gauteng.
As for challenges in his new job at the GMA head office in Midrand, Dachs admits that it will probably be difficult to grow Gautrain ridership in the current tough economic environment.
“We aim to grow Gautrain ridership by 2.5% every year, but you need people with jobs for that; people coming into the job market. An economy that is not creating jobs is a problem.”
Another challenge is the fact that the Gautrain’s buses are spending more and more time in traffic.
“Gautrain users time their entire journey, not just the quick train ride. The train is only half of the solution,” says Dachs.
One solution would be the implementation of priority bus lanes.
Bombela is also set to replace the Gautrain bus fleet this year and is looking at the increased use of midi-buses, as opposed to the large buses currently in use.
“We always have to consider the system as a whole,” says Dachs.