Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  13 Apr 2010

TRANSPORT: New Plan Still Needs Overhaul


Recent Western Cape Business News

IN 2009 the City of Cape Town started implementing the first stage of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system based on successful BRT models implemented in South American cities like Bogotá and Curitiba. This would include a trunk service to and from the airport, an inner city feeder service with links to Hout Bay and a service between the City and Atlantis, passing through Table View and Du Noon, with feeder services.

The original budget for the full Phase 1 was projected at R1.45 billion, but subsequently rose to R4.6 billion. Phase 1 was scaled down to exclude Century City, Atlantis and Du Noon which would be implemented after the World Cup, and expected to only be completed in 2013. At the end of February it was announced that national government would make R3.35 billion available which will enable the City of Cape Town to complete the Blaauwberg to Cape Town section by December this year.

Golden Arrow CEO, Nic Cronjé, says that, while Golden Arrow supports the concept of integrated transport systems, the current model is not necessarily the best for this country or for Cape Town in particular. “European cities have, over many decades, offered sustainable public transport systems through well-policed preferential right of way for public transport vehicles. London’s congestion charging system, with special bus ways, has been an impressive success story. Such incentives are inexpensive and far easier to implement than massively expensive BRT systems, the likely success of which in South Africa is debatable.”

An optimised public transport system based on integrated rapid public transport networks (IRPTNs) can go a long way in alleviating the pressure on existing systems and at the same time providing better service to the public. The main challenge remains the funding of public transport - there are currently simply not enough funds to radically improve public transport offerings to the public.

Nevertheless, BRTs are a step in the right direction and will go a long way in ‘entrenching’ public transport in the minds of the public once fully implemented. It must, however, be expected that it will in all likelihood require subsidies as we do not have the route densities of South American and other world cities that can justify a 18 hour service. It is also considered a more expensive service to operate due to the requirement of bus stations, personnel to support it, security concerns, ticket selling companies and so on. In world cities these costs are offset by the high passenger volumes which will, in all likelihood, not be the case in South Africa.”

There is a place for all three transport modes in South Africa, Cronjé believes, each has a specific role to play and government needs to invest judiciously in each mode. Rail remains the backbone of the transport industry, because it can transport large numbers of people. When properly planned, practically placed park and ride facilities are provided and with more investment in rolling stock, and enhanced security on trains, rail can make a far more meaningful contribution to the transport system than it currently does.

The imminence of World Cup 2010 appears to have motivated the South African government to push the implementation of BRT systems much faster than is feasible. Cronjé believes the entire existing public transport network should be overhauled comprehensively. It will not succeed if it is implemented piecemeal by adding major new components without dovetailing and coordinating them into the current system. “All of the components of a successfully functioning public transport system (infrastructure, modes, licensing, routes and schedules, revenue collection and distribution, and technology etc.) are interrelated,” he says.

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