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President checks transport Print E-mail
15 June 2012

The public transport links between South Africa’s economic leaders, Joburg and Pretoria, were examined by President Jacob Zuma.

MAJOR public transport interchanges around Gauteng experienced pandemonium early yesterday morning when an unusual commuter, President Jacob Zuma, boarded a Metrorail train in Pretoria, transferred to a Gautrain rapid rail at Rhodesfield, in Ekurhuleni and then transferred to a Rea Vaya bus to Soweto in the Johannesburg city centre.

President Jacob Zuma takes a trip on the Gautrain to JoburgPresident Jacob Zuma takes a trip on the Gautrain to JoburgThe impromptu trip, which spanned three municipalities in one province, took about four hours, with major delays attributed to the poorly managed Metrorail service and a meet-and-greet at various stations, inside the trains and on station platforms to interact with commuters and passers-by.

The president’s whirlwind tour was taken to monitor the newly operational Gauteng Integrated Transport Network, which comprises a link between Metrorail, Gautrain and Rea Vaya. In future, there could be a single ticket system implemented to use the entire network.

Zuma started his day early, buying a Metrorail ticket at 6.30am at Pretoria Station to board the 7.10am train. But the train was delayed for more than an hour and the president only arrived at Gautrain’s Rhodesfield Station at 8.40am.

Zuma said the trip had been “an experience”.

Delays
He had listened to the plight of commuters, who told him about how Metrorail was inconvenient, that trains were overcrowded, there was a lack of security, and trains were slow moving – this all led to being late for work.

Zuma said Metrorail was affecting production because workers arrived late at work and this affected the economy. “That was a common kind of thread running and there are a number of things that we listened to.”

Video
On a chilly Thursday morning on 14 June, President Jacob Zuma took a trip around Gauteng's three metros to check on public transport. Watch video.

His government would have to move swiftly to remedy inadequacies in the public transport network, he said, pointing out that its priorities needed reorientation. “For us to be a developed country, we have got to develop our transport system.”

From Rhodesfield, he took the Gautrain to Sandton, but only disembarked at the last stop, at Park Station in the Johannesburg inner city. The president said the Gautrain was “quick, efficient and convenient”.

“As I looked at these two [trains] I realised that development needs to come. I was with workers in the train who are travelling terribly. We need to look at such issues and bring about development but it doesn’t come freely – it comes with a cost,” he explained.

Taking a taxiTaking a taxiThe manner in which the Gautrain had expanded economic development was “amazing”. “We’ve had an impression and I am convinced now that we need to bring more fast trains, more security so that this country can move forward.”

Public transport
In a press statement, the Presidency said Zuma’s monitoring and evaluation visit would highlight the government’s investment in the public transport system between two of South Africa’s major economic centres, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Among those who joined him on his trip were Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, new Transport Minister Ben Martins, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, former Joburg City manager and now Gauteng government official Mavela Dlamini, and others in the presidential entourage.

Police officers had their hands full trying to control a multitude of screaming and jostling people, all wanting to have a piece of Zuma. He stopped frequently to chat and shake hands with citizens.

According to the latest research by the Gauteng City Region Observatory 72 percent of households live within 10 minutes’ walk of public transport. About 42 percent of commuters in Gauteng travel to work by taxi, another 42 percent use private cars. Only 6 percent of people walk to work, and about 10 percent use trains and buses.

The research shows that commuters’ main concerns are escalating transport costs, rude drivers, reckless driving, unreliable service and unroadworthy vehicles.

Zuma ended his day at Soweto’s Dlamini Multi-Purpose Centre, where he spoke to residents about improvements to public transport, assessed loopholes in the system and discussed future prospects.

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