Purchase of 40 new Gautrain cars a double edged sword

Dr Neil Campbell MPL

Spokesperson on Roads and Transport

The DA notes the announcement by Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO Jack van der Merwe that the acquisition of 40 new cars for the Gautrain is being considered. However such an acquisition is a double edged sword.

On the one hand the on-going operating and administration costs of the Gautrain, running currently at just under R1.5 billion a year, far outpace the income from the service and are at this time, inadequately funded for the 2013/14 financial year by almost 50%.

The GMA is relying on an additional appropriation  by the Gauteng Treasury to fund their operation for this year so that huge ridership guarantees (subsidies) can be paid. The budget of the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport was slashed by 16.7% this year and there is no surplus in that budget for the acquisition costs of 40 new coaches.

So the big question is: where is the money going to come from to fund the purchase of the coaches? The only possible options are the National Treasury or private sector loans.

On the other hand it is good news to overcrowded ‘rush-hour’ commuters that additional coaches are being considered. However, outside the two daily ‘rush hour’ periods the trains are underutilised. The additional up-scaling of trains to 8 car units should have been used already and consideration as to the necessity of a full ‘stand-by’ train on such a new system should be questioned.

We are all anxious that the first public transport initiative that is clean, reliable, punctual, safe and almost affordable should be a success but the South African international debt is extremely high and we need to utilise every possible means to maximise the usage of our current coaches  before we adversely increase the national balance of payments by purchasing more rolling stock.