New plan to get South Africans to use trains instead of cars

Government has drafted a new white paper which aims to migrate passengers and freight from road to rail over the next 30 years, the Sunday Times reports.

One of the key suggestions in the document is the introduction of wider ‘standard-gauge’ tracks across most of the national rail network.

These will replace the narrow-gauge tracks currently in use, and open freight and passenger rail services to competition and the possible privatisation of some rail services.

The Sunday Times reported that the government also wants cities to run their own local passenger train services.

In response to queries from the paper, Transnet spokesperson Molatwane Likhethe said that the document in question has not been tabled to Transnet’s executive committee, the board or government.

However, he noted that the introduction of standard-gauge rail tracks was in-line with the systems used by other countries, and will allow for the introduction of long-distance passenger services with trains travelling in excess of 200km/h.

“As a state-owned company with a mandate of lowering the cost of doing business in South Africa, it is our responsibility to have debates and ideas on how we can influence economic growth using our capabilities,” he said.

“The major investment will, therefore, be the development of a minimalist standard-gauge, high-performance national rail network to maximise rail’s inherent competitiveness, and provide sufficient capacity for heavy-haul and general freight services, as well as for regional rapid transit and long-distance passenger services.”

Dream of bullet trains

In his June state of the nation address, president Cyril Ramaphosa outlined his vision for a new state-of-the-art South African smart city built on the back of world-class rail infrastructure.

“I dream of a South Africa where the first entirely new city built in the democratic era rises, with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories,” the president said.

“This is a dream we can all share and participate in building. We have not built a new city in 25 years of democracy.”

The smart city, the president said, would be connected to other hubs by a bullet train.

“We should imagine a country where bullet trains pass through Johannesburg as they travel from here to Musina, and they stop in Buffalo City on their way from Ethekwini back here.”

Read: A look at South Africa’s 4km long train which has 375 wagons

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New plan to get South Africans to use trains instead of cars