Warning over Gautrain’s expansion plans

The Competition Commission has raised concerns that a ‘two-tier’ rail system between the Gautrain and Metrorail in Gauteng could further deepen inequality in the province.

In a report published this week, the commission said that the Gautrain was not intended to compete with Metrorail, but complement it – with the intention behind the system to encourage private motorists to use the train.

However, it highlighted some conflict in that the Gautrain was rolled out after Metrorail, and it appears as if the system was not planned with Metrorail in mind.

The commission said that while there is not a major duplication of routes between the two services, they do overlap at four stations – Hatfield, Pretoria, Rhodesfield and Park Station.

It added that further expansion plans for the Gautrain service could exacerbate this, and solidify a ‘two-tier system’.

“The expansion project is perpetuating the status quo of a two-tier rail transport system; one for the working class and one for the middle class,” it said. “The approach may deepen mobility-related exclusions, as it essentially creates a two-tier system based on geographically distinct areas of the province.”

Expansion plans 

The Gautrain Management Agency said that it plans to expand its operations and has done some feasibility studies.

A feasibility study for the expansion of the Gautrain network identified the following main links and stations:

  • Jabulani via Cosmo City and Samrand to Mamelodi: stations include Roodepoort, Little Falls, Fourways, Sunninghill, Olievenhoutsbosch, Irene, Tshwane East and Hazeldean;
  • Sandton and Cosmo City: station in Randburg;
  • Rhodesfield and Boksburg: station at East Rand Mall;
  • Cosmo City to Lanseria Airport.

Previous issues and recommendations

In its report, the commission acknowledged similar concerns raised before the Gautrain was first implemented.

The South African Communist Party in particular voiced worries at the time that the implementation to the Gautrain would prejudice other transport functions in the province.

“Gautrain was driven provincially, and the province by-passed the spirit of the law and of national policy by setting up the Gautrain as a separate public company, which meant that the three major metros in Gauteng had to accommodate it retroactively, prejudicing their own plans and potentially compromising funds available for more pressing priorities,” the SACP said.

However, the Department of Transport said that consultations between regulators, Prasa, the Gauteng province and itself occurred before the rollout of the Gautrain, including the expansion plans for the system.

Furthermore, the group said that the design of the system and the requirements of Prasa were continuously discussed and agreed on by stakeholders.

In its list of recommendations, the commission said that the Department of Transport should develop a policy that ensures efficiency and integrated planning in commuter rail services.

“This policy may include, among others, the integration of Metrorail and Gautrain in Gauteng, and a rail devolution strategy setting out the criteria for devolution of commuter rail services,” it said.

In addressing ongoing issues with the Metrorail, the commission said that infrastructure backlogs should be curbed by exploring alternative funding sources and fostering private sector participation.

It added that high-density corridors should be prioritised for rail services.

“Incorporation of the new rail expansion in the grant network (should) target high-density corridors, in addition to the refurbishment of existing infrastructure,” it said.

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Warning over Gautrain’s expansion plans