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Thursday Jun 18, 2015

New rail link to boost Bellville

A new 4km railway linking Bellville to Cape Town International Airport has been planned in a memorandum of action (MOA) signed by the City of Cape Town and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) yesterday.

However, the airport link - identified in the agreement as one of eight infrastructure investment projects for Cape Town - should not be confused with the Cape Town International Airport Rail Link between the city centre and the airport mooted more than three years ago.

"This is a different project since it links Bellville with the Cape Town International Airport with a 4km-long rail line link. It will therefore not conflict with the current MyCiTi bus service between the Cape Town central business district and the airport," said Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for Transport for Cape Town.

The rail link between Bellville and the airport is likely to boost the suburb's bustling CBD.

In 2013, the Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) noted a decline in the business district, particularly along the Voortrekker Road corridor. The belief at the time was that the N1 highway had become the preferred route of travel and freight to Cape Town's northern suburbs, leading to decreased traffic directly through Bellville's CBD.

At the time, GTP suggested Bellville become the starting point for the regeneration of the region, with a view to the hub becoming a "north city urban core" between 2025 and 2040. It suggested a rail link would bring closer the economic zones in and around the Bellville CBD; educational hub of Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Northlink College's Bellville campuses; and the surrounding industrial and residential areas.

The 2013 document also mentions the construction of a Bellville to Cape Town International Airport "Aerotropolis", which would serve as a public transport hub.

Bellville ward councillor Ernest Sonnenberg said he was not sure where the process of the airport link was but said it would be a great addition to the Bellville CBD and would liken it to other world class cities.

"Any development in Bellville and the airport should benefit the current users. But if this link does happen, it would be ideal. Obviously the safety of the commuters would need to be looked at and new security measures would have to be put in place."

Sonnenberg said Bellville has been undergoing a rejuvenation process and the proposed link would be a worthy addition.

Sonnenberg said they were looking at ways to make Bellville more attractive to businesses, students and property developers. He added that there are signs that they are on the right track.

"It will take time to get it (Bellville) to what it used to be. Homeless are moving to broader parts of Bellville because of the rejuvenating that is going on in Bellville, it's a sign that it's happening."

According to the memorandum signed yesterday, the development of the airport link will be lead by Prasa.

"The parties will jointly explore the development of an alternative financial investment parameter for the Airport Rail Link, which will facilitate investment between the economic zones of Bellville and the airport, and later extend to the east and south-east." The agreement highlights the project as one of the “catalysts for the regeneration related to the Bellville Public Transport Interchange as well as the Voortrekker Road Corridor”.

Herron said the cost of this new link would only be determined "at a later stage", closer to the implementation of the project.

He said it was considered that the rail link should be implemented by a concessionaire of private investors.

It was also too early to identify a possible route the line would take.

The aim of the memorandum was to define the terms for the project management team to "explore alternative financial models and to compile an investment package for this initiative".

The parties will jointly explore the development of an alternative financial investment parameters for the Airport Rail Link, which will initially facilitate investment between the economic zones of Bellville and the airport, and later extend to the east and south-east.

This is an important investment opportunity as it releases the economic linkages to Bellville and will be one of the catalysts to the regeneration related to the Bellville Public Transport Interchange PTI as well as the Voortrekker Road Corridor.

The aim of this project is for the PMT to "explore alternative financial models and to compile on investment package for this initiative".

The airport link has been identified as one of many infrastructure investment projects for Cape Town.

The others include the Blue Downs Rail link, Fisantekraal-Bellville Rail Corridor, the Atlantis rail line and the Bloekombos rail station.

The Blue Downs Rail link would be built from Nolungile to Kuils River stations and would be operational by 2020.

"Prasa is at this stage focusing on implementing the Blue Downs rail link within the next five years. As such, this project is the city and Prasa's main priority."

Herron said: "Investment in new rail infrastructure will focus on the areas where there is a big demand for rail, which we consider to be the backbone of the city's public transport system."

The parties will jointly explore the development of an alternative financial investment parameter for the Airport Rail Link.

Cape Argus

    
 

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