The feasibility study on the possible expansion of the 80 km Gautrain system should be completed by January next year, says Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO Jack van der Merwe.
The proposed routes under investigation include a link from the existing Gautrain Park station, underneath the city, to Westgate; a link from the existing Gautrain Rhodesfield station to Boksburg; a link from the existing Gautrain Sandton station to Randburg and Honeydew; and a link from Naledi, in Soweto, to Mamelodi, through either the proposed Gautrain Samrand station or the existing Gautrain Midrand station.
Van der Merwe
says the expansion project has been registered with government as a public-private partnership.
says the project forms part of the Gauteng government's new 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25).
"The ITMP25 wants to provide more certainty on three aspects: what the economy will do, what the population will do and how land in Gauteng will be used."
It is estimated that Gauteng will be home to 18.7-million people in 2037, up from the current 12.3-million, of which 8.6-million will be workers.
This means there will be around 25-million passenger trips a day in the province by 2037 - as much as is currently the case in London, says Van der Merwe
We need to see if we can help grow the economy around the Gautrain
stations," notes Van der Merwe
A study by consultants KPMG has shown that the existing Gautrain has spurred on developments to the value of R46-billion.
"The system has produced massive secondary benefits - more than 1.5 times its costs."
Van der Merwe
believes it will be much easier to build expansions to the Gautrain
than it was to sell the initial footprint to a public doubtful of its success.
"Everybody told us they didn't want the train in their backyards, and now people clamour to be near the stations."
The original Gautrain project also saw the risk of the unknown - new technology; will people use a rapid-rail public transport system? - priced into the project.
In addition to this, the private sector proved unwilling to provide funding to what could turn out to be a white elephant, while ridership projections had to take a number of estimates and uncertainties into account, says Van der Merwe
Now, however, the project is known; the system, its use, and the technology familiar; with the competition in tendering for future rapid-rail phases expected to be much stronger than in the first phase of the Gautrain
"We [government] are also smarter.
We learned a few things," says Van der Merwe
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's
multibillion-rand project to procure new, locally built rolling stock for its Metrorail service could also see the Gautrain expansion project tap into the development, using similar, if perhaps somewhat modified coaches.
It has not yet been determined that any Gautrain expansion will necessarily follow the blueprint of the current system, adds Van der Merwe
While January includes a significant number of holidays, skewing the data, Van der Merwe
believes the ongoing saga around whether motorists should pay e-tolls on Gauteng's roads have lured commuters back to the road.
Demand, however, remains high.
Van der Merwe says Bombela, the Gautrain operator, is set to reduce the headway between rush-hour trains to 10 minutes by June, down from the current 12 minutes, which means commuters will have access to an additional train an hour.
also remains committed to securing additional rolling stock for the system, with funding the biggest hurdle.
"We are also seriously considering running an additional, short train on the busiest section of the route, from Centurion to Sandton," says Van der Merwe
Jack van der Merwe