The Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) has suspended its expansion projects due to the impact of the pandemic on its services. In addition to a depot enhancement project, and the procurement of additional trains, the GMA was planning a substantial route expansion across Gauteng, including a new route to Lanseria, which would have enabled useful and tourism-friendly connectivity between Lanseria and OR Tambo. As funding has not been forthcoming for the route expansion, this also appears to be on hold.
In a statement this month, the GMA said it had put the procurement of additional rolling stock and the depot enhancement project on hold until further notice. “Road traffic volumes have also decreased significantly and the growth trajectory for people movements is likely to take some time to recover to pre-COVID levels. Thus, whilst the need for additional rolling stock remains, it is no longer as urgent as it was at the time of issuing the tender documents in 2019. The GMA will consider measures for addressing various needs as part of its future planning of the management of the Gautrain project and its holistic requirements.”
According to Business Insider, demand for Gautrain services has fallen off a cliff, with usage down 70% in December and 80% in January after SA’s new hard lockdown began to bite.
The report said funding for the Gautrain route extensions had never been settled and had still been at proposal stage (the proposal requires a 30% contribution capital cost from government and the balance to be collected in levies on airport taxes or vehicle licence fees). With the state having to find new funding to combat the pandemic, the project was relegated.
However, Dr Barbara Jensen, GM senior executive manager, communication and marketing,told Travel News that the extension of the Gautrain Gauteng Rail Extension Network had not been cancelled, but was still awaiting approval from treasury. “This is a long-term project and will span over various areas and will be developed in multiphases over a period of time,” she said.
Travel News understands that the Gautrain has been waiting for funding for this network expansion project since the plans were submitted to treasury in 2017. No progress with the project has been publicly reported since.
Comair’s sales and marketing executive, Brian Kitchin, said any suspension of airport accessibility and connectivity was not great news for the industry. He explained that Uber and private taxi services were currently the only public transport options that connected Lanseria. Making the airport more accessible by public transport would allow it a greater catchment area in Gauteng. A reliable public transport connection with OR Tambo would also enable international connecting passengers to start taking advantage of well-priced domestic Lanseria flights.
“Decreased road traffic volumes are a short-term problem for the Gautrain and its expansion project is still needed in the long term. We shouldn’t be stopping expansion plans because of current conditions,” said Brian.