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Monday Aug 06, 2012

Experts cool on Gauteng transport revamp

Experts have shot down Gauteng's new draft public transport improvement plan as nothing new but "a rehash of the old problems" that the government has failed to deal with for years.

This comes after Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi released details of a five-year transport implementation plan for public comment.

The plan is part of a 25-year transport programme to improve transport systems in the province and ensure it can cope with congestion pressure on the roads.

This week, Vadi spoke to transport consultants at the University of Johannesburg on the five-year framework report and how Gauteng transport would be improved in the next five years.

He spoke of immediate plans to establish a single ticketing system across all transport modes including metrorail, BRT, Gautrain and taxis among others.

He also lobbied for support for the establishment of a single transport authority to ensure integration of all transport modes.

But some experts were left more disappointed than convinced by the MEC's plans and vision. Paul Browning, a transport consultant described Vadi's plan as "far too grand a design". "I would prefer to see what we are going to do starting tomorrow," he said.

"Everyone says the taxi industry must be transformed but nobody has really come up with what is the key to persuade the industry to transform."

Browning said while he applauded the MEC's determination to drive the plan, the question of what can be done tomorrow to improve public transport was yet to be answered.

"After five years since the national Department of Transport developed a strategy to improve public transport, we have only one line of bus rapid transit system," he said. "Why has the process of improving transport been so slow? You don't need billions of rands to improve public transport, you just need a decent bus service with bus stops."

Another expert, Dr Vaughn Mostert – a senior lecturer on transportation at the UJ – described the five-year draft report as "a repeat of the same old problems we know".

"The only thing now is a sense of urgency because of the tolling issue which has left the government exposed," he said. "What happened to the national transport strategy of five years ago? They just kept on spending money on empty buses."

Mostert said advice had been given to the Gauteng government over the years but no one listened.

"If anyone had listened, bus transport would have improved to such an extent that it would not be necessary to put a fourth lane on the freeways," he said. "We knew long time ago that buses in Gauteng were in a mess. What the document doesn't say is that with the Gautrain and BRT integration has become more complicated by more bureaucracy."

Vadi said the a five-year plan was for urgent priorities put together by a team of transport experts. These include among others, single ticketing, freight and logistics hubs on the periphery of Gauteng and a transport authority for greater integration.

Gautrain Management Authority boss Jack van der Merwe, spoke of possible expansion of the Gautrain from Hartfield to Menlyn in Pretoria and from the airport to the East Rand Mall.

Saturday Star

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