Public mobility

From left: Pule Godfrey Selepe (Director-General of the Department of Transport), Elizabeth Dipuo Peters (Minister of Transport) and Kenny Kistan (Chairman of the ATC Board)
Ms Dipuo Peters, Minister in the Department of Transport Kenny Kistan Chairman ATC Company SATC 2015.JPG

Innovative transport funding models for Africa, and a high-speed train from Jozi to Durban, were some of the exciting highlights at the recent Southern African Transport Conference.

“We are aware that infrastructure development is directly linked to economic growth and social development. Ports, rail and road infrastructure investment is needed on the continent, to promote intra-regional trade.” This was the message of the South African Minister of Transport, Elizabeth Dipuo Peters, at the 34th annual Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) in Pretoria.

Peters, the event patron, highlighted the need for an integrated multi-modal transport system throughout southern Africa – and that the rail industry in South Africa had been dormant for almost a century.

Looking at the impact of partnerships within the transport  sector in fostering employment and economic growth throughout the continent, the minister noted that intra-regional trade with member states of the African Union accounted for 12% of trade – in comparison the European Union boasted intra-regional trade of 80%.

“Transport drives globalisation and allows countries to compete effectively in global markets,” she said.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is currently finalising a massive rail infrastructure programme, with the latest technology and cutting edge road safety – with an estimated investment value of R51 billion over 10 years. With this programme, it is envisioned that South Africa will become the hub for the production of rolling train stock for the continent.

“The modernisation of Prasa is the most important thing that has happened in the last decades. It will reverse decades of assets and service deterioration,” explained plenary speaker William Dachs (the Chief Operating Officer at the Gautrain Management Agency responsible for the oversight of the multibillion rand Gautrain Rapid Rail Link), who took to the podium after the minister.

Dachs focused on new funding models for transport, lessons from the implementation of the world-class Gautrain system and practical steps to plan for future commuter requirements.

He highlighted some of the challenges of the South African transport landscape. “One of the biggest challenges for public transport is the inefficient spatial layout caused by the country’s socio-economic history. This makes both the infrastructure and use of public transport exorbitantly expensive,” he explained.

However, citing the recent investments in renewable energy in South Africa as a positive example, Dachs said there was a need to look at new funding models and for South Africans to move away from private transport into public transport.

“In order to do this, there must be a combination of the push factor – the cost of using private transport – and the pull factor including punctuality, reliability and safety,” he explained.

He highlighted the need for value capture in transport projects, where good public transport nodes attracted people to live in an area – thereby increasing the value of property in the area and attracted the interest of commercial and private property developers.

“These value capture strategies, which are lined to business incentives, have been successfully used in Washington and China,” he noted.

Comparing international public transport systems, and looking at how these could benefit Africa, Fred Wen of the China Railway Group provided a glimpse of a future connected and integrated Africa, ably supported by a sustainable transport model for people and goods – comprising rapid railways, express roads and regional aviation on branch airlines.

Imagine travelling from Johannesburg to Durban in almost two hours or travelling by high speed train to any country in Southern Africa? This is no longer a science fiction discussion, but part of feasibility studies that have already been conducted by Chinese and African governments and companies. Wen said this would come in the form of a high-speed railway network between Johannesburg and Durban – with speeds of up to 300km/h. “We conducted a feasibility study in 2010 looking at two options. One being a passenger dedicated railway at 300km/h and the other being a mixed-use line for people and cargo running between 180km/h and 200km/h,” explained Wen.

Although he did highlight that the current power situation in South Africa was a limiting factor, as a high-speed railway network running over 550km in 2 hours would use the same amount of power that is currently used to power Johannesburg and Durban for a week.

“That is why there is the second option for passengers and cargo. It is not technically a high-speed railway as the speed is between 180km/h and 200km/h – but power consumption is one-third cost and the infrastructure costs less than a passenger-dedicated railway line,” he explained.

However, this remains in the future. There will be a high speed train network between Johannesburg and Durban, but it will not be in the next few decades, according to Wen.

The outcomes of the forum will form the basis of the 6th Ministerial Meeting of China and the African Union, which will be held in South Africa in December.

This follows on the heels of the South African government joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at the end of March 2015, with Egypt. The bank will collect US$100 billion funds for infrastructure constructions from Asia to Africa.

As part of this plan, Kenya will be used as an access point and will expand the scope to the African continent for potential infrastructure development.



High Speed Train
comments powered by Disqus


This edition

Issue 68