South Africa: Subsidies in Transportation Sector Favour Gautrain, Committee Hears

The Portfolio Committee on Transport is concerned to hear that Gautrain will receive a subsidy three times bigger than that received by the Passanger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).

The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi, said she failed to understand how Gautrain will get the largest subsidy when it transported the least number of people. She wanted to know if the National Treasury had been consulted on this issue.

“You should be able to tell the Committee the things you require so that the Committee can assist you. This (subsidy issue) is the elephant in the room. What do we do?” Ms Magadzi asked. She also wanted to know if Gautrain still has plans to expand into Soweto.

Prasa board member Mr Williams Steenkamp told the Committee that Prasa was also perplexed by the subsidy allocations. “Prasa in the Western Cape enjoys around 60 to 67% of the market share and yet the subsidy allocation is skewed towards the bus service. The subsidy allocation compared to the ratio of consumers is grossly unfair,” Mr Steenkamp said.

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He said the rail allocation does not take into consideration the burden Prasa bears to maintain rail infrastructure, while bus companies did not have to maintain the roads. He said the subsidy issue needed to be addressed holistically, and that a discussion on the matter is most welcome.
Prasa Chief Executive Officer Mr Nathi Khena said Prasa’s funding model raises the issue of subsidies. “The subsidy needs to be looked into if one wants trains to be the backbone in the strategy in the movement of people,” Mr Khena said.

He indicated that a meeting with Gautrain and another with the Gauteng MEC for transport regarding expansion towards Soweto had taken place. “We made it clear to Gautrain that we do not see why they want to service an area that Prasa is currently servicing. If they are getting the money for that they should pass that to us,” Mr Khena said.

Ms Magadzi wanted to know if vandalism and criminality on trains are having an effect on commuter numbers. She also asked if there is a relationship with the bus rapid transport systems and the taxi industry. “We cannot talk about an integrated transport system if rail is not involved and talking to other role players. The road role players should be feeders to the trains. That would make your work easy,” she said.

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Source: allafrica

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