Transport dept turned down request to integrate Metrorail and Gautrain — Mbhazima Shilowa

The Competition Commission has recommended that Metrorail be integrated into the Gautrain to improve efficiency in the sector. File photo.
The Competition Commission has recommended that Metrorail be integrated into the Gautrain to improve efficiency in the sector. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Nelius Rademan

Mbhazima Shilowa says the department of transport turned down his request to integrate Metrorail into the Gautrain during his tenure as Gauteng premier.

Shilowa revealed this in a thread on Twitter after the Competition Commission on Wednesday released its two-part provisional report into the country's public passenger transport market, e-hailing and metered taxi services.

“They’ve opened an important matter for debate. The project though was less a transport system and more an economic project, revamping and creating new economic modes while dealing with congestion on the roads. DOT [department of transport] turned down our request in 2000 to take over Metrorail,” Shilowa said.

He said the middle class deserved as much public transport to new areas as the broader working class.

“If we had an integrated, safe and reliable transport [system] covering new economic nodes, we could reduce congestion and emissions, reliance on cars as well as travel time,” said Shilowa.

The Competition Commission’s report revealed that the 40% subsidy the rail sector received from government only benefited wealthier provinces as there was no proper rail network in poor provinces.

The commission found that there were “huge” inequities between the Gautrain and Metrorail.

“Gautrain is heavily subsidised and operates differently from Metrorail from a service point of view,” said commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele.

“Literally, there is a wall between the two departure points, even when they use the same station. We need to break down these walls and have a single system,” said Bonakele.

He said trains were not meant to compete with each other and were about efficiency.

“If you have two trains both going from Johannesburg to Pretoria, that is inherently inefficient. You want a single system that’s more reliable and more regular.

“We think that the best way is to allow the provincial government to take over Metrorail and integrate it into the Gautrain and run a single transport system, a single system that does not separate people according to class,” Bonakele said.

Twitter users reacted to the recommendation, with some supporting the commission, while others said it would be a mistake if government integrated the two.

“I've never understood why the money spent on the Gautrain wasn't spent on upgrading and expanding existing rail infrastructure and pushing middle class towards it. Creating two separate systems is so, woefully, South Africa,” said Verashni Pillay.

“Gautrain was necessary and the standard is necessary too. Metrorail simply does not meet certain standards and those using Gautrain would be driving if it didn't exist, further polluting air and congesting roads. Prasa chowed the money they were given for Metrorail,” said @Sis Gugs.

@Masibanda wrote: “I once dubbed the Gautrain a tool that perpetuates socio-economic inequality instead of uplifting the poor who NEED affordable public transport just to get by; a vanity project for an unequal country that wants the world to see it only as  rich.”

Dr Vukosi Marivate said integration would be a “big policy mistake”.

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