Neil Campbell MPL
DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Roads and Transport
Gautrain passenger trips have increased by 120 000 since the opening of the Johannesburg Park station according to the latest figures
The first quarterly oversight report of the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) also indicates the highest number of weekday train and bus passengers were recorded in May this year.
While these figures are encouraging, passenger figures remain below the anticipated 100 000 daily passenger trips and the project is experiencing operational challenges.
These include overcrowding during the morning peak period between Hatfield and Park station and back in the afternoon. Extending peak afternoon times and the additional train capacity (8-car train sets) introduced in March and again in May, in anticipation of e-tolling, has simply not been enough.
The GMA, along with Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi and the provincial government must:
* Improve Gautrain capacity: Further needs assessments must be done to determine whether current peak time capacity between Hatfield and Park is sufficient and to address continued reported overcrowding on these lines.
* Address Gautrain safety: Safety concerns of commuters must be adequately addressed to give passengers the confidence to walk to and from stations like Park, Hatfield, Centurion and Sandton. Inadequately lit areas or large stretches of empty land discourage commuters from using the train, particularly during evening off peak hours.
* Revisit Airport operating hours: The current operating hours for the OR Tambo International Airport link does not capture the first flights from Johannesburg or the last evening flights into Gauteng just before 21:00. These hours should be revisited to ensure that these commuters are also accommodated.
* Expand and optimise bus feeder system: One of the major challenges currently facing the project is the inadequate reach of the bus network. The inaccessibility of buses and inconsistent operating times across the various routes discourage commuters from utilising the service. The GMA must finalise the redetermination of the bus feeder system as a matter of urgency as it has been delayed for far too long.
* Embrace Gauteng nightlife and tourism: The current operating hours of the network miss those who wish to enjoy the social activities and vibrant nightlife hubs of Newtown, Rosebank, Sandton, Hatfield and Centurion. The feasibility of having an hourly train between 20:30 and 00:00 from Thursday to Saturday must be investigated to capture those who want to experience the Gauteng nightlife.
* Introduce Gautrain partnerships: Businesses and organisations around the Gautrain commercial hubs must be brought on board to incentivise the use of the network. The feasibility of bulk discounts for staff members of companies and organisations should investigated and instituted to encourage employees to make use of the Gautrain.
The Gautrain is a proud landmark of Gauteng and emblematic of the immense economic potential and progress of the province. The Gautrain project must fulfill its primary objective of enhancing and supporting economic growth in the Province and generating employment. It can only do so when it operates on par with the highest standards and when commuters are assured a safe, accessible, reliable and efficient public transportation network.