Safe, fast and convenient transport

Transport infrastructure is fundamental to the functioning at modern society, but is also an ongoing challenge, because its, literally and figuratively, a moving target. Just as vehicles (from private cars to buses, trains and airplanes) move around in intricate configurations, the needs of people and entities making use of transport constantly shift too. In urban areas, the challenge is most apparent as bulk transport and increased vehicle density adds pressure to roads, the ability to move freely is most affected. In an ideal world transport is not only safe, fast and convenient, but also has a minimal impact on the environment. But can South African Cities achieve such lofty goals? Actually the can, as demonstrated by some notable successes already in operation. Facilities such as the Gautrain and any one the airports company of South Africa ( ACSA’s) new airports nationwide are testament to what can be achieved in terms of environmental standards and services excellence. These projects represent pockets of excellence that can be linked to other modes of transport to achieve an integrated, efficient and safe system.



Dr Barbara Jensen senior executive manager of the Gautrain Management Agency, says the train service delivers international standards of public transport with high levels of safety, reliability, predictability and comfort, as well as a mode of transport to rival private motoring.

“Gautrain’s role in a broader, integrated transport master plan for Gauteng is as its backbone, with a dedicated, exclusive bus service, designed to link up with other modes of transport,” she adds. These modes include existing stations, the Bus Rapid Transport systems, city buses, minibus taxis and OR Tambo International Airport. “Rail has a particularly important role to play, because of the way station precincts have been designed to link up with bus feeder systems and road networks.”



Although a regional project, the Gautrain serves up a microcosm of a transport solution that ties in with the broader National Development Plan — specifically, the plan’s goal of ‘safe and reliable public transport’ for South Africans.

That much is evident in the technology put to work in it.

“Safety and reliability were built into the system during the design phase and are central to the system,” says Jensen. A number of measures mitigate Gautrain security risks,


  • Hundreds of COP! Cameras providing recorded coverage of at stations and trains and key locations along the route.
  • The SAPS Railway Police as well as Gautrain’s own security officers have a presence at all stations, car parks and inside trains.
  • Continuous satellite tracking of all feeder and distributor buses.
  • Secure fencing along the route to prevent unauthorized access and vandalism of critical system assets.




Technology is central to the efficient operation of the Gautrain, and indeed of any public transport mode and its role will only increase in a future where facilities ‘join hands’.

“Technology’s centrality covers rolling stock (trains), signaling, communications, ticketing systems and safety systems,” she says.

“The concessionaire (Bombela) had to comply with the latest international standards, while the operator uses the latest operating and management systems. A performance monitoring software system ensures high standards of availability, punctuality, cleanliness, maintenance and safety and security, while a management information system ensures acceptable information is used in assessments and management.”



While any facility in isolation can be impressive (OR Tambo airport, for example, is a remarkable complex), it’s when they work in concert that exponential benefits are achieved. This is evident in the linkage, for example, of the Gautrain to the airport.

(Integration) was a requirement of National Cabinet in its decision to financially support the Gautrain project,” Jensen notes. In fact, such is its importance that it was the central work of a committee of all relevant authorities in Gauteng — Acsa, Sanral, Prasa and the Metropolitan municipalities.

Furthermore, the Integrated Transport Master Plan for

Gauteng recommends the establishment of a local transport authority to, inter alia, promote integration, including information exchange and dissemination. A Transport Commission has now been established to perform those functions,” Jensen says.

While just one example, Gautrain demonstrates a recently implemented model public transport system of good implementation and operation, incentivising upgrades and improvements on other public transport systems.


-Donovan Jackson 



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