New plan to privatise train routes in South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has proposed the privatisation of some of South Africa’s key train routes in a bid to improve transport access to millions of South Africans.

The City Press reports that the proposal forms part of the president’s new economic recovery plan and will primarily focus on routes in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

The route between Mabopane and Tshwane in Gauteng and the central Cape Town rail route in the Western Cape are reported to be high on the priority list.

“Access for third-parties on the railway network is exactly what we have been requesting for years,” Mesela Nhlapo, chief executive of the South African Road Rail Association told the paper.

Nhlapo said that routes were seldom privatised in South Africa and that the standard way of privatising routes was through a public-private partnership where government is responsible for safety and maintenance of the lines.

“If that’s the plan, it could unlock enormous opportunities. It could lead to fixed property becoming valuable retail spaces,” she said.

Gautrain expansion

Gauteng’s Gautrain route is also set to expand within the coming decade, says Gautrain Management Agency chief executive, William Dachs.

Dubbed ‘Gautrain 2’, the expansion project that would see an additional 149km of railway line and 19 new stations added to the existing network, and create up to 175,000 direct jobs in the construction phase, and 68,000 new jobs in the operational phase. However, the project is only likely to commence in 2024.

The first phase would see the network expanding by 32km, between Marlboro and Little Falls in Roodepoort, and consist of three new stations.

Dachs said in a webinar hosted by CNBC Africa on 21 September: “I don’t think anyone has ever been to a city with a poor public transport network that was a competitive city and I’m afraid, and I think everyone in the province is afraid, that if we don’t keep our planning for extending rail, and investing in rail, our cities are going to lose their competitive edge.

“And that’s fatal in this world as we have it now,” he said. “We’ve got to be getting a move on now, because we’ve got such a long lead time before anything actually happens in these massive infrastructure projects.”

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New plan to privatise train routes in South Africa