The Gauteng Provincial Government is planning to build a high-speed rail link between Gauteng and Limpopo.
The provincial government will later this month also be unveiling a new secure number plate system for vehicles registered in the province.
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi said on Monday the provincial government is ready to unveil the first high-speed rail link between Johannesburg and Limpopo.
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“This is because we are quite aware that we might be a smart but small province, but we must take advantage of bigger rural provinces so that their growth must influence our growth …,” he told the 2023 Smarter Mobility Africa Summit in Midrand.
“So our investment, therefore, is to grow Gautrain and ensure that it is stabilised.
“But at the same time, creating a new rail opportunity to Limpopo is a vote of confidence about the future. This future must incorporate Gauteng, and Gauteng must play a strategic role [in it],” he said.
Sustainable alternative to private vehicles
Gauteng MEC for roads and logistics Kedibone Diale-Tlabela said significant investments are being made internationally in mass transit systems, including high-speed trains, light rail, and bus rapid transit.
Diale-Tlabela said these systems alleviate congestion and offer sustainable alternatives to private vehicles.
“Our plans in Gauteng for improved public transit are in line with this global trend, and we are also considering expanding our rail network to connect with neighbouring provinces and regions,” she said.
Diale-Tlabela said the Gauteng provincial government’s involvement in the Gauteng-Limpopo rail link is largely about economic spinoffs that come from the project.
Lesufi told Moneyweb on the sidelines of the summit that the cabinets of the two provinces had met and resolved to appoint a team to do a feasibility study on the project and then approach the national government.
“We are now in the process of presenting the concept to national government,” he said.
Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO designate Tshepo Kgobe confirmed the concept study would be presented to the national cabinet in two weeks’ time.
Kgobe, who will take over as CEO of the GMA from current CEO William Dachs effective 1 February 2024, said there is an indication of the project’s cost “but we can’t talk about it”.
He added that the project is run functionally by GMA, but is run from the Gauteng premier’s office, and he could not comment on it at this stage.
Lesufi said the still-to-be-conducted feasibility study would provide an indication of the cost of the project.
He said the timing of the project depends on the compliance and approval processes, but anything between four and six years “will be the ideal period to conclude the task”.
“They are going for a public-private partnership.
“There are two institutions that have already raised their hands that they are willing to fund it – a China-based financial institution and a local institution.
“They [were] willing to roll out the cost, but we needed to get approval from our cabinets. We have got it [the approval] now, so we are going to national government to get that,” he said.
Project to go to tender
Lesufi said the project would have to go out on tender because “it’s massive” and will require National Treasury approval.
However, he said the fact that there are financial institutions that are willing to work on the project “will make things easier” in terms of obtaining National Treasury approval.
The GMA already has plans to expand the current Gautrain network.
Kgobe said the current planned expansion of the Gautrain forms “the greater sum of the parts” of the project to build the high-speed rail link between Gauteng and Limpopo.
The existing Gautrain network comprises 80km of rail along two route links between Tshwane and Johannesburg, and OR Tambo International Airport and Sandton.
The planned Gautrain extension proposes building, in several phases, another 150km of rail and a further 19 stations.
Planning and money needed
Jack van der Merwe, CEO of the Gauteng Transport Authority and a former CEO of the GMA, said the feasibility of the Gauteng-Limpopo rail link would look at the feasibility of a high-speed link between the two provinces but not at the higher speed rail links that have been built in Europe.
Van der Merwe said the study will look at the feasibility of a “240km line from Johannesburg to Polokwane”.
He confirmed that the planning involves building this link and expanding the existing Gautrain network.
“We need both, but we need the money. So we are working full steam on the extension.
“We are not sacrificing one for the other. We are looking at the planning.
“The existing Gautrain concession runs until 27 March 2026, so we are looking at renewing that and then doing the extension and future development,” he said.
Van der Merwe confirmed that a tender would be issued to select a new concessionaire for the Gautrain.
Tamper-proof number plate system
Diale-Tlabela said the provincial government’s efforts to strengthen its battle against crime and corruption will be in vain if it does not address lawlessness and crime in society.
“As part of our contribution to combating criminality that threatens order and peace, we are on the cusp of launching a new, secure, and tamper-proof number plate system,” she said.
“The official unveiling of the new number plate prototype will take place on October 23 and 24. Gauteng is indeed making significant strides in this project,” she said.
Lesufi said the introduction of the new number plates will be done in phases because it is an enormous project.
He said the cost to motorists of the new number plates “will not be different from what they are paying now”.