Gauteng’s rail network must triple to avoid traffic congestion

  • Gautrain express rail system plans to extend its network by 80km to help alleviate road congestion in Gauteng.
  • But the length of the province’s rail network must be tripled over the next 50 years to reduce traffic congestion.
  • People can also reduce their carbon emissions by choosing rail over car.

The length of Gauteng’s rail network must triple over the next 50 years to alleviate road congestion, said William Dachs, CEO of the Gautrain Management Agency.

Dachs was speaking Tuesday at a webinar hosted by Arena Holdings on the importance of environmental sustainability in business. Dachs explained how Gautrain addresses environmental and socio-economic challenges.

Rail presents a solution to the “twin” challenges Gauteng province will face – environmental damage and traffic congestion – he said.

An individual traveling 30 km by car per day produces around 2.8 kg more carbon dioxide emissions per trip than a commuter using a train, Dachs said.

Similarly, Karin du Chenne, director of growth for the Africa and Middle East division of consulting firm Kantar, pointed to the difference in emissions produced by trains and cars. According to Du Chenne, trains produce 60 grams of carbon per kilometer, while cars produce 133 grams per kilometer.

Bearing in mind that usually one person drives a car, but a train can carry several people. Using the trains can help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, she argued.

Dachs said it shows that individual choices can make a “huge difference” in durability.

Gautrain’s role in providing sustainable options to consumers is linked to the expansion of its rail network by 80 km. Currently there are 10 stations between Johannesburg and Pretoria and between Sandton and OR Tambo. It is a relatively small network linking the economic poles.

Gautrain’s existing rail network is 80 km spread over 10 stations.

DBSA/Gautrain provided

Gautrain is planning Phase 1 to extend the network by 32 km, Dachs said.

The network will extend to Soweto with a rail between Roodepoort and Jabulani. Expansion is also planned for northwestern parts of Gauteng such as Randburg, Cosmo City and Little Falls.

Gautrain will allow more direct transport for commuters traveling between Soweto and Sandton – a journey that could take between two and a half and three hours a day by car, Dachs said.

It is also possible to extend the network further north to Mamelodi, Tshwane, as well as the eastern parts of Gauteng.

How quickly this happens depends on national government approvals. “These procurement cycles for large infrastructure projects are long,” Dachs said.

READ | Congestion: Gauteng roads could come to a complete stop in 8 years

Rail expansion is needed in the province to address congestion on the roads, he said. The existing rail network in the province must triple over the next 50 years to “make a dent”, Dachs said.

As a province, we are going to face a double whammy – environmental damage and congestion. It is our reality. We cannot continue to put more and more people on the roads. It’s not sustainable. We need a rail solution.

Dachs added that a rail solution would not be solely dominated by the Gautrain, but that other players must participate, including Metrorail. This is going to require an integrated transport and rail solution.

As for meeting the demand for more stations, Dachs sees public-private partnerships playing a key role. For example, Sandton station is not owned by Gautrain. However, Gautrain holds rights around the station. “It’s a private train station,” he said. This model should be replicated in other places like Randburg or Jabulani, Dachs said.

“For me, the way forward is to seek partnerships in the private sector…as government we are not good developers. While the private sector has a strong and well-resourced property development sector “, he added.

READ | For Gautrain to succeed, communities must have a stake, says CEO

The partnerships also extend to other parts of Gautrain’s offering. There are partnerships with taxi associations to provide shuttle services to Marlboro Station near Sandton. Gautrain offered branding for minibuses and helped with ticketing, but taxi associations run the service, Dachs said. It was successful and also extended to Hatfield and Centurion stations.

It’s a win-win – taxi associations get “good deals” and Gautrain has the advantage of having people transported to their stations, Dachs said. “It’s a magical model,” he remarked.

Pricing strategy

When it comes to making the Gautrain more accessible to commuters, Du Chenne suggested grants for specific groups like students who need to use it to get to school, as well as retirees. Dachs stressed the need to ensure disadvantaged groups are not overburdened by the Gautrain. He said there is a realization that Gautrain has been accused of elitism, although he never wanted to be.

The pricing strategy aims to be as financially viable as possible. The fee charged to commuters covers the cost of operating the system, Dachs said. It is possible to offer discounts – Gautrain currently offers a 25% discount for students.

A real step forward would be to have prices discounted based on geographic location – for example, Park Station commuters, who are typically from low-income households, could potentially pay lower fares than commuters from Hatfield, who are generally from higher income households. . Dachs said no decision has yet been made on this. “My feeling is that’s where we need to go…it will really help with affordability issues and accessibility issues.”

For more innovation and value-added opportunities, Gautrain has also expanded into non-transport services by piloting driver license renewals near its Midrand station. “We’ve been inundated with people coming in,” Dachs said.

Customers rated the service highly. Dachs attributes this to training staff – mostly unemployed graduates – to be service oriented. Gautrain in turn scores points by asking people to use the train to get to stations.

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