South Africa must avoid a future where those who can afford private cars continue to use them and where public transport is used by those who have no other choice, says Gautrain CEO William Dachs Management Agency (GMA).
“Public transport is for everyone. We do not believe reliance on private cars is sustainable, and the Gauteng Provincial Government is committed to developing and expanding the rail network so that it can function as the backbone of public transport in the province,” he said Monday.
Read: Proposed Gautrain route extension is getting closer to reality
Dachs pointed out that the dual challenge is to make these services affordable for more people and to better integrate them with other modes of transport.
“That’s what the Competition Commission said in its final report,” he said.
This comment refers to the Competition Commission’s preliminary report on its public land passenger transport market investigation published in February 2019, which, among other things, said it believed the Gautrain was a big policy mistake and recommended that the Gauteng provincial government take over Metro. Rail and integrate it with the Gautrain to operate “a single system that does not separate people according to their class”.
Dachs said the proposed extensions to the Gautrain route network will address these issues, among others, in line with the new national rail policy.
He said the GMA has also done a lot of work on public transport integration through its partnership with taxi associations.
Dachs made the comments in response to criticism from the Automobile Association (AA) of the planned route expansion.
This was in response to an announcement by Gauteng MEC for Public Transport and Road Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo that the route determination for the first phase of the proposed expansion of the Gautrain route had been published in the Provincial Gazette of Gauteng, which was “an important step” in the province’s railway planning process.
AA expresses concerns
However, the AA said the determination of the route for the proposed expansion “disregards the factual evidence opposing such a decision and underscores the poor financial decision to allocate funds to a failing system”. .
The association said the proposed expansion must be rejected and urged the national government to halt any discussion about funding for such expansions.
“In August last year, we made a detailed submission outlining our concerns about Gautrain’s expansion.
“Any expansion of Gautrain perpetuates a system that caters to a minority of citizens, while costing Gauteng taxpayers billions of rand to sustain themselves through the so-called patronage guarantee, which compensates the system for low levels traffic,” he said.
Read: Motorists set to pay for Gautrain expansion
The AA added that, given the severe economic challenges in South Africa, the fact that taxpayers’ money is actually being used to compensate a private entity for non-performance “is outrageous and deeply disturbing” and “a mockery of of the government’s stated objective of ensuring fiscal responsibility”.
The association said that the GMA in 2021, with funding from the Gauteng Provincial Government, paid the private company Bombela Concession Company a patronage guarantee of R2.014 billion, while the patronage guarantee paid in 2020 was of R1.9 billion.
Read: M&R takes R197m from Gautrain low ridership revenue
“Since 2013, the taxpayers of Gauteng have funded the lack of passengers on the Gautrain to the tune of almost R13 billion.
“And, because of the built-in insurance for poor performance through the Patronage Guarantee, less money is available in Gauteng for transport projects that can meet the needs of the majority of citizens who do not have access to the Gautrain.
“The fact remains that the Gautrain serves people who already have means of transport. The extensive parking infrastructure at Gautrain stations testifies to this,” the AA said.
“This, along with a range of other issues, is detailed in the submission we made last year.
“Unfortunately, we have not received any feedback on our concerns, and it appears that the MEC has disregarded input from civil society on an issue that has huge financial implications for all citizens of the province. “, did he declare.
The AA said it would write to finance and transport ministers, as well as parliament’s standing finance committee and the transport portfolio committee, seeking clarification on the planned funding for the extensions.
Read: Gautrain 2 can’t actually start until late 2024
“There is no justifiable reason for the Gautrain service to be extended.
“We have not received any official feedback on our concerns, and perhaps it is time for the national government and parliament to hold the Gauteng Provincial Government, the MEC and the GMA accountable for spending billions of rands of government money. ratepayers for what it is, essentially, a vanity project of the province and not a sustainable public transportation solution,” he said.
However, Dachs said the GMA provided a response to each submission received, including the AA, through the public participation process.
“Most importantly, the comments from the AA were taken into account when preparing the recommendation for route determination along with all other submissions received,” he said.
Not just taxpayers’ money
Dachs added that the Gautrain was planned and purchased under a public-private partnership (PPP) where private and public capital was and is being used to build and maintain a modern and efficient rail system.
He pointed out that unlike most other infrastructure projects, the private sector is required to maintain and operate the system over a long period of time as well as replace key components and return the system to the prescribed contractual terms. after the end of the concession period.
For example, the total bus fleet of 125 buses will be replaced during the concession period, he said.
Dachs said that’s why the Gautrain retains its strengths so well.
“In less than 20 years, between 2007 and 2026, Gauteng will have created and repaid a Tier A public asset that will serve the province and the country for many decades to come,” he said.
Dachs said the Gautrain has also had significant positive economic and socio-economic impacts on the country, with independent economic studies showing that:
Many more R2 of economic value are created for every R1 spent.
The Gautrain creates and sustains over 12,000 jobs in South Africa each year.
The GMA has spent over R5 billion on local facilities and equipment, and these significant value flows to small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs), black-owned businesses and households across Gauteng.
“It’s a very strong argument that projects like Gautrain create value and share it in a way that gives taxpayers value for money.
“We only have to look to our most likely future to see that there are many reasons why Gautrain should be expanded to other areas of the province.
“With a net population growth of around 500 people every day, with increasing congestion and environmental damage that will come from increasing private car use, it makes no sense to try to maintain the status quo,” did he declare.
“In the absence of viable road alternatives, it makes sense to follow international examples of city-regions investing in rail to remain competitive and enable mobility for their citizens.”