South Africa: MEC Ismail Vadi – Gauteng Launch of 2016 October Transport Month

We welcome one and all to the Gauteng launch of the 2016 October Transport Month Campaign. We'd like to thank the City of Tshwane for co-hosting the event with the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport. Earlier today we saw an example of an intermodal transport facility, where the Gautrain, Metrorail, Gautrain busses, A re Yeng and other modes of transport operate in an integrated manner. One gets a real sense that the different components of the system operate as a whole and facilitates easy and seamless mobility for thousands of commuters and travellers.

The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport is the provincial custodian of the October Transport Month Campaign. As a government-initiated campaign, it is expected that the Department, together with municipalities, plays a lead role in the promoting the use of public transport; encouraging citizens to opt for sustainable modes of transport, and raise public awareness about road safety during this period.

The theme for this year's campaign is the "Modernization of the Public Transport System in Gauteng". This is derived from the provincial government's multi-pillar programme of radical Transformation, Modernisation and Re-Industrialisation of Gauteng.

Together with the City of Tshwane, today we will showcase a sustainable mobility initiative with the unveiling of two electric vehicle charging stations. The two solar stations are part of the Legacy Project from the Cities Green Transport Programme funded in 2015 by the Green Fund. Tshwane's sustainable transport strategy is steadily taking root. The design and implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit system; the uptake of clean vehicles for its fleet and the promotion of non-motorised transport are the three core elements of its sustainable transport strategy.

The City has signed the "Clean Bus Declaration" and is committed to having 40 percent of its bus fleet converted to clean technologies by 2020. This will include busses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) and other combination of zero emission capable vehicles. We will recall that the first CNG bus was launched in Tshwane in November 2015.

Furthermore, 10 electric vehicles have been incorporated into the messenger fleet as of May 2015. Apart from the visibility of the vehicles which have been brightly branded, the City is encouraging the development of universal charging stations throughout the City and first two solar charging stations are opened today.

In terms of non-motorised transport, the City of Tshwane is actively promoting cycling through its sustainability outreach programme, known as Tshwane Green. The aim of the programme is to get our people to see cycling as a credible mode of mobility. Later this month, we will distribute 2000 bicycles in Ekurhuleni to encourage young people to take up cycling. We must imagine and create and live an alternative to the current car-centric nature of many cities across the globe.

In the course of this month, the Department, in partnership with the municipalities, will host a variety of events cutting across the Gauteng City Region to promote public transport and sustainable mobility. Some highlights of the campaign are the:

Hosting a Global Rail Conference;

Initiating an electronic ticket for the taxi industry;

Organising the Gauteng Cycling Indaba;

Launching three road construction projects;

Hosting a Transport Career Expo for high school learners and university students, and

Encouraging citizens to use public transport every Friday throughout the month.

We are confident that our October Transport Month Campaign will draw in the participation of thousands of our citizens in a variety of activities that are being organised by the local, provincial and national spheres of government. We urge our people to take seriously the messages of the benefits of public transport, road safety and sustainable mobility. It's about our future and that of children and grandchildren. We must consciously strive to build a reliable, safe, affordable, accessible and environmentally sustainable transport system for the benefit of all.

The Chinese have an old saying, "When you want to make the lives of the community better then build a road". In our day and age, we can modify this idiom by saying, "When you want to make the lives of the community better, then build public transport infrastructure". Building roads and public transport infrastructure goes beyond concrete, asphalt and bitumen. It touches lives and empowers people. It connects families and residents. It provides greater socio-economic access, linkages to opportunities and seamless mobility. And, it stimulates the economy.

Roads and public transport link and integrate whole communities and facilitate the seamless movement of people, goods and services. More importantly for us who have lived under a system of "separate development", it helps us to re-fashion apartheid geography and to spatially reconfigure the Gauteng City-Region along the five development corridors identified by the Premier Makhura.

Transport-related infrastructure development must be seen against the backdrop of the mega human settlements that are being spearheaded by the private sector and supported by the provincial government. New housing developments such as Steyn City, Waterfall City, Vaal River City, Syferfontein and Savannah City to meet the projected growth in our population will transform the city-scape in different municipalities in our province. Roads and transport officials in different spheres of government should ensure that there are appropriate road and transport networks to accommodate the envisaged growth in population in these areas as a result of these new housing developments.

We believe that we are delivering on our mandate within the available resources allotted to us. We prioritise the maintenance and expansion of our road network precisely because it is an enabler of broader economic growth, job creation and the empowerment of small and medium enterprises. We invest in public transport infrastructure as we believe that we need to promote a shift from private to public transport. We see rail as the backbone of our public transport system supported by the bus rapid transit networks in metropolitan municipalities.

In this regard, we would urge the City of Tshwane to fast track the implementation of A re Yeng. Phase 1 should be rolled-out as soon as possible, its ridership should be increased, and public confidence in its operations must be enhanced. When strategic public transport projects take too long to materialise, people do not see the tangible benefits of these projects. I would, therefore, urge the Mayor to priorities this project and he should ensure that the benefits of the BRT system are being felt and experienced by citizens.

There is a growing need to build new freeways in Gauteng. The last time a highway was built in our province was in 1982. In spite of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project led by SANRAL, our freeways - particularly during peak hours - are congested and at times gridlocked. The 25-Year Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25) projects that our car population will increase from 3.5 million in 2011 to 6.5 million by 2037. To date we have a car population in Gauteng of 4.5 million vehicles. The increasing number of cars in our province, and the consequent traffic congestion, comes at huge social and economic costs to our people as we spend many unproductive hours trapped in traffic congestion. It contributes to the high cost of doing business in Gauteng. It is this costly reality that we must address more urgently.

We would like to announce that the Department is busy with the initial planning to build the 35km long PWV15 to support the development of an Aerotropolis at the OR Tambo International Airport and the Tambo-Springs Freight and Logistics Hub. The construction of the PWV15 must be seen as a strategic project. It will have a multiplier effect on the Eastern Corridor.

Apart from alleviating traffic congestion on the existing road network, it will accelerate the development of the Aerotropolis and the Tambo-Springs Logistics Hub, and enhance the adjacent land value along the route for housing, industrial and commercial development. It would serve as a catalyst to modernise the road network in the Eastern corridor; unlock economic opportunities through the revitalisation of the manufacturing sector in Ekurhuleni; allow for the free flow of freight traffic from the N3 to the N1 freeways, and greatly relieve traffic pressure at the Gillooly's Interchange, which has been superbly upgraded by SANRAL through the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

Speaking about the Eastern Corridor, let me emphasise that Gibela's R1 billion train manufacturing plant at Dunnotar, near Nigel, will give further impetus to the reindustrialisation of the manufacturing and rail sectors. It is part of the localisation, development and transformation of our rail manufacturing, engineering and entrepreneurial capabilities. This must be seen as part and parcel of PRASA's rail modernisation programme to replace its 40 year old rolling stock.

Early this year, Gautrain had put out an expression of interest from rail manufacturers to procure 48 new train coaches. The preferred bidder will be announced later this year. The acquisition of new rolling stock is aimed at increasing Gautrain's capacity to meet rising ridership demand over the next 10 years. In addition to the rail cars, the project involves the expansion of the existing depot to maintain additional trains; signalling improvements; additional traction power, and new maintenance equipment. The planned expansion of its rail capacity shows that Gautrain enjoys high levels of confidence by rail commuters and that the passenger demand is growing steadily since its inception in June 2010.

In March this year, the Department hosted an informative International Conference on Transport Authorities. Based on 15 international case studies the Conference recommended the establishment of a Transport Authority for the Gauteng City Region. The Department has initiated a process to formally establish the Transport Authority. In collaboration with the Department of Transport and municipalities we have formulated legislative proposals to be considered by the Portfolio Committee on Transport for inclusion in the National Land Transport Amendment Bill, which has been tabled in parliament.

With regard to future transport planning, the Department recently released the results of the 2014 Gauteng Travel Household Survey, which was conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Gauteng is the only province carrying out dedicated household travel surveys. This survey interviewed all occupants in 29 779 households across municipalities in the province and provides a good comparative picture of people's travel patterns, attitudes and perceptions on public transport since 2000, which can be used profitably for transport planning. The following notable information emerged from the survey:

The proportion of household income spent on public transport increased significantly, which is closer to 20 percent for lower income groups.

Passenger travel demand is increasingly being absorbed by low capacity transport modes demonstrated by the increased proportion of private car and minibus taxis that serve travel demand. The use of private cars in particular increased markedly in spite of the massive investments in public transport infrastructure.

Walking is still a dominant mode of transport in the province; 11 percent of people walk all the way to work or to institutions of learning. This signals that facilities for non-motorised transport should receive priority.

The average travel time to work and back home has increased markedly from 32 minutes in 2000 to 46 minutes in 2014.

39 percent of minibus taxi users were dissatisfied with the behaviour of drivers; the roadworthiness of taxis and felt unsafe in transit. Commuter satisfaction levels with train services were lower with travellers complaining about overcrowding, frequency and punctuality of train services and the distance of stations from their homes.

The Department manages the Public Transport Operating Grant, which funds 34 bus subsidised contracts. The bus services are operated by 12 private companies on behalf of government through interim or tendered contracts. Presently, many commuters are rightly complaining about the poor quality of some services and that in certain areas the services are not meeting their time schedules. This in itself shows the need to hasten the review of these bus contracts and work in this area is progressing steadily.

As I conclude, let me emphasise that our government has made huge investments, and will continue to invest, in road infrastructure and public transport, which is safe, reliable, affordable, accessible, and of a high standard. For this we are guided by a well-designed 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan. The goal of course is to incentivise commuters of every socio-economic category to travel on public transport. This is good for our environment; it eases traffic congestion and promotes wellness. This is the essence of the 2016 October Transport Month Campaign!

Source: South African Government.

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