The Gautrain expansion project is facing severe criticism, and doubt has now been cast over the plan.
Gauteng public transport and roads infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo has recently provided details about the Gauteng rapid rail integrated network (GRRIN) project.
The proposed expansion of the Gautrain network would result in 148km of additional track and 19 additional stations in Johannesburg, Tshwane, and Ekurhuleni.
The first phase of the expansion will add an additional 34km of track to the Gautrain network.
The new network will start at Little Falls, east of Hendrik Potgieter Road in Willowbrook. It will pass Jackal Creek Golf Estate, Cosmo City, Randburg, North Riding, Olivedale, Bryanston, Ferndale, Bordeaux, and Hurlingham.
Mamabolo talked up the Gautrain extension project, but not all stakeholders shared his enthusiasm.
The Automobile Association South Africa said the determination of the expansion route for the Gautrain disregards factual evidence opposing such a move.
The AA added that it underscores the poor financial decision to allocate funds to a failing system.
In 2021, the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) paid the Bombela Concession Company a patronage guarantee of R2.014 billion through funding from the Gauteng provincial government.
In 2020, the patronage guarantee paid to Bombela was R1.9 billion. Since 2013, Gauteng taxpayers have funded the shortfall of riders on the Gautrain by around R13 billion.
“Any expansion of Gautrain perpetuates a system which caters for a minority of citizens, all the while costing Gauteng taxpayers billions of rands,” it said.
“Taxpayer money is used to compensate a private entity for non-performance is outrageous and deeply disturbing.”
The AA said the Gautrain extension project must be rejected and urges the national government to halt any discussions regarding funding such expansions.
Members of the Gauteng legislature’s portfolio committee on roads and transport were equally scathing, saying it is a vanity project that wastes government finances.
Danielle De Bruyn, a senior associate at Barnard Inc Attorneys, said one of the biggest criticisms levelled by the committee was the costs associated with using the Gautrain.
The concerns about costs relate to the Gautrain fares, the associated travel expenses to get to your final destination, and the parking rates.
The committee said driving your own vehicle amounts to the same expense, or even slightly less, than utilising the Gautrain.
As such, the committee suggested that the financial expenditure can be better used to upgrade and maintain Gauteng’s road infrastructure rather than to approve another white elephant.
De Bruyn highlighted that the committee’s purpose is to scrutinise and review budgeted initiatives of the department to ensure sustainable service delivery and curb wasteful expenditure.
“Clearly, the Committee lived out its purpose by asking difficult but relevant questions, which need some serious attention and consideration before this project is given the go-ahead,” she said.