Gauteng Rapid Rail Link under fire

Posted On Wednesday, 13 February 2002 03:01 Published by
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Dream panders to politicians' vanity, says Diepenbroek
Dream panders to politicians' vanity, says Diepenbroek

THE premise for building the R7bn Gauteng Rapid Rail Link is flawed, says SA Property Owners' Association chairman Anthony Diepenbroek.

He criticised the Gautrain scheme yesterday, branding it an 'engineer's dream which panders to politicians' vanity'.

Part of Gauteng's provincial government urban regeneration programme, the Gautrain scheme will link Johannesburg, Pretoria and Johannesburg International airport.

The rail route and the location of its stations have generated anxiety in the property industry, given the implications for fixed property. The plan will necessitate expropriation of some property as well as redevelopment.

Diepenbroek says that property development in Gauteng's key business nodes of Rosebank, Sandton, Midrand and Centurion is likely to be marked by a large degree of uncertainty until plans for the Gauteng rapid rail link are finalised 'or scrapped'.

He says uncertainty about the project's details will put increasing downward pressure on commercial and residential property prices in areas along the proposed route.

Diepenbroek says the proposed station sites presuppose that most commuters who use the N1 are all bound for the same destination, 'which is patently unlikely'.

Commuters will still have to use their vehicles or take another form of public transport to and from each station.

People with their own cars most of whom live closest to the proposed stations in Rosebank, Sandton, Midrand and Centurion are likely to continue using their cars.

He says the proposed route is out of reach to people who desperately need public transport.

Traffic congestion on the M1 between Soweto and Johannesburg's central business district and northern suburbs, and between Mamelodi and Pretoria, and Tembisa and Midrand, suggest that commuters in these areas desperately need an efficient, fast, safe public transport system.

By starting and ending in the Johannesburg and Pretoria central business districts and neglecting former township areas, the Gautrain project is not going to cater for the masses. 'And without mass use of the system, it is likely to be a financial failure,' he says. 'Gauteng needs a practical, unglamorous solution similar to the public transport system in Curitiba.'

The system in this Brazilian city is a privately run, profitable bus service that travels at almost twice the speed of conventional buses and is used by 75% of the city's weekday commuters.

'Building it cost a fraction of the price of a tram system or subway.'

Diepenbroek says talk of a rapid rail transit system for Johannesburg has been continuing for years, but the project has never progressed beyond the feasibility stage because it is neither practical nor economically viable.

Each time new plans are unveiled, the property market in the areas named in the plans suffers because of the uncertainty created. Diepenbroek says the commercial property market is already under pressure. 'The prospect of longterm speculation about the Gautrain scheme will cause further damage. We need finality,' he says.

Publisher: Business Day
Source: Business Day

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