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Immediate remedial solutions to transport challenges in Gauteng are being found by the Steering Committee set up by the minister, while long-term solutions are being rolled out.
FOLLOWING an outcry regarding tolling on roads in the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), a Steering Committee was set up to find solutions to the public transport challenges facing the province.

Transport minister Sibusiso NdebeleTransport minister Sibusiso NdebeleThe Open Road Tolling (ORT) system was to be instituted as a pilot project on the GFIP network by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) in April. It was to be fully operational in June.

The committee held the first in a series of meetings on 2 March, chaired by the Transport Department’s director-general, George Mahlalela. Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele issued a media statement on the day saying that if successfully implemented, its recommendations would serve as a model to unlock public transport solutions for the country.

Ndebele was a leading a growing chorus in the government, which believed that while long-term solutions were being rolled out, immediate remedial solutions would go a long way in easing the lives of frustrated commuters around major centres.

In a joint statement issued on 22 February by the minister and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who had also expressed reservations about the ORT in her state of the province address on 21 February, the leaders noted that they had been listening to these concerns and would discuss the issue further.

In addition, it was announced that the gazetted toll tariffs would be suspended until further notice. In all, 42 electronic toll gates in the form of overhead gantries have been erected on the N1, N3, N12, N17, R21 and R24.

The Steering Committee has set up an inclusive consultation process to settle broader questions relating to the delivery and funding of transport infrastructure in the country.

Led by the national Department of Transport, the Gauteng Public Transport Steering Committee comprises representatives from that department, from the provincial transport department and the Gauteng Office of the Premier. Committee members include Kgaugelo Lekgoro from Mokonyane’s Office; the transport head of department, Benny Monana; and Sanral’s chief executive officer, Nazir Alli.

There are also representatives of the City of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, Sanral, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and Gautrain, the South African National Taxi Association Council, South African Bus Operators Association, political groups, organised labour, organised business, commuter organisations and any other relevant stakeholders.

The committee is working under strict deadlines and must report back to a political team consisting of Mokonyane, Ndebele and Ismail Vadi, the MEC for roads and transport, before the end of March.

MotoristsA steering committee is looking into ways to solve transport problems in Gauteng “The next 10 years are critical for the transformation of our public transport system. Most of our urban centres require innovative sustained, efficient and affordable public transport systems,” Ndebele said on 2 March.

“While we accept that solving our public transport system will take many years, we must find short-term remedial measures which will improve the situation.”

Ndebele and Mokonyane have agreed to find such short-term remedial and relief measures, which include increasing the size of bus fleets, taxis and coaches on critical routes.

Ndebele said it was necessary to improve commuter information systems and to introduce other creative short-term solutions. These included dedicated lanes for public transport vehicles and for private vehicles carrying three or more passengers, known as high occupancy vehicle or HOV lanes. Consultations on the GFIP tolling would continue. Gautrain management would market the planned launch of the Gautrain commuter route between Johannesburg and Tshwane and its feeder systems.

The Steering Committee must produce clear public transport solutions for Gauteng and also present a clear financial solution or model for the tolling debate.

“The probing and pertinent questions asked by our people about public transport over the past couple of weeks in Gauteng are questions to which all of us must find answers. The answers will not come from government alone, but must be generated and owned by all the people of Gauteng and the people of South Africa,” said Ndebele.

“We have no doubt that we will find not only appropriate solutions but ones that will transform our approach to the delivery of transport infrastructure in South Africa.”

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