The Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) is hopeful that the National Treasury will approve the much-awaited Treasury Approval 1 (TA1) for the planned extension of a rapid rail network, following the submission of the feasibility study early this year.
“We handed in the documents to the National Treasury in April for review [and it will] decide whether the project is feasible . . . if so, it has to be affordable and bring value for money. We have engaged with them in the past two months quite often and we are confident that we will get an answer in the next few months,” says GMA CEO Jack van der Merwe.
The Gauteng Rapid Rail Intergraded Network (GRRiN) project is a part of Gauteng’s 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25) that predicts transport demand for 2037 and as well as a population growth of up to 18.7-million. This project has been registered as a private–public partnership (PPP) project.
The ITMP25 is a framework for an efficient and integrated public transport system that aims to assist people in moving from using motorised to nonmotorised transport and private to public transport, as well as moving people and freight from road to rail.
GRRiN will entail extensions of the railway line from Mamelodi, in the East of Pretoria, to Samrand. Other links – from Cosmo City to Fourways, Sunninghill, Olievenhoutbosch and Samrand; from Marlboro to Modderfontein, Rhodesfield and OR Tambo International Airport’s new proposed Midfield Terminal; and from Rhodesfield to East Rand Mall and Boksburg – are also to be developed.
Van der Merwe says the biggest priority in the country currently is to eradicate poverty and unemployment, and government has decided to do so through the implementation of the National Development Plan, launched in 2012, which encourages infrastructure development.
Subsequently, the Gautrain was launched in 2010 at a project cost of R25.5-billion. In 2015, the GMA did an economic impact assessment and found that developments around the Gautrain stations constituted about R46-billion and, in the same period, the project had created 128 000 direct and indirect jobs.
Commenting on what would happen to GRRiN if the National Treasury does not approve TA1, Van der Merwe indicates that, as a PPP project, it is not going to help the GMA if the agency starts engaging private funders at this stage before the project is approved.
He says if the National Treasury approves TA1, the GMA can then start developing Treasury Approval 2 (TA2), which involves the contract documents and the design of the tender. “We will have to go through the process of getting environmental authorisation and expropriation of the properties that is needed.”
If the GMA can obtain the funding for this rapid rail extension project immediately, the project could start in the next five years, Van der Merwe points out.
Meanwhile, the Gauteng provincial government is developing a transport authority that will ensure, inter alia, that there is an integration of public transport in the province.
“Gautrain have started integrating its railway system with Metrorail. There are stations where passengers can connect to Metrorail. There is, however, a need to expand on that,” Van der Merwe concludes.