South Africa is looking at building new airports – with a ‘Gautrain’ connection in major cities

 ·2 Jun 2022

The Department of Transport will give increased attention to the country’s airports in the coming years, and how they fit into the broader economy.

This includes a proposal to broaden existing international airports into larger ‘aerotropolises’ while investigating the need for smaller, less profitable airports.

The proposals are included in a revised white paper published by the department at the end of May, some of the key changes include:

High-speed rail

International airports in metropolitan areas should ideally be linked with a scheduled or similar rapid transit system, or even a medium-speed local or regional rail system, the department said. This is similar to how the Gautrain connects to OR Tambo International Aiport in Johannesburg.


The concept of an ‘aerotropolis’ at airports should be supported, the department said.  “In other words, the creation of a city in which the layout, infrastructure and economy are centred on a major airport, following robust feasibility assessments determining the net economic benefit.”

Smaller airports

South Africa also has many smaller airports, many of which are not commercially viable or duplicate others that are in close proximity. The need for the development and management of these smaller airports will be investigated, the department said.

Costs and feasibility

Public sector investment in the aviation industry will be related to not only market returns but also to broader socio-economic value when making decisions around the development of new, or the upgrading and extension of existing airports, the department said.

These considerations will also be considered in the reduction of the number of international airports and the allocation of public funding, it said.

“In the determination of socio-economic value, positive externalities must be clearly identified, followed by a cost-benefit analysis that objectively demonstrates that the socio-economic benefits exceed the costs.”

The environmental impact and sustainability of airports should be tracked and managed, especially the fact that overall network planning does not take into account minimising environmental impacts, the department said.

The national planning and integration of airports into the broader transport network, in respect of modal integration as well as in the context of the total air transport system, need to be coordinated with the other spheres of government, the department said.

“Airport development should be planned holistically in accordance with a structured National Airports Development Plan, which would support national, provincial and local community objectives. Such development needs to complement the airport system, and in some cases may even allow for competition within the system, to the benefit of the user.”

“Airport planning and development need to be incorporated into the planning initiatives of relevant provincial and municipal governments, as an airport may influence provincial and municipal socio-economic development.”

The department added that all stakeholders will be consulted in the planning of airports.

“Specifically, the planning for airports must be included in a provincial land transport framework which, in turn, would form part of the economic development plan for the province.”

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