Should the Pretoria High Court turn down the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s application to appeal against e-tolling today, Gauteng road users will have no choice but to pay up or use public transport.
While authorities have been encouraging road users to use public transport, the question is whether public transport is ready to meet the extra demand there would be if more people began using public transport rather than their cars.
According to the alliance’s Wayne Duvenage, it is not.
“The use of public transport as an alternative to private transport is shocking and almost unrealistic.
“At the moment bus and rail services cannot cope with the volumes along the limited routes they serve and often don’t go where most road users need to.
“(Their) quality, reliability and safety are also questionable.”
Until this problem was solved millions of Gauteng road users would be obliged to pay for the use of freeways that used to be free.
The appeal to be heard today follows a high court judgment on December 13 dismissing the alliance’s application for an order scrapping the electronic tolling of Gauteng’s major roads.
The alliance was ordered to pay the legal costs of the application.
GAUTRAIN GAINING MOMENTUM
While the majority of commuters in the city make daily use of minibus taxis, the number of commuters using the Gautrain has increased steadily in the past year.
Gautrain Management Agency chief executive Jack van der Merwe said the Gautrain was carrying about 40 000 passengers a day and that between 14 000 and 16 000 people were using Gautrain buses to get to stations.
This was up from 34 000 train passengers and 12 000 bus passengers a day last January.
Van der Merwe believes that if e-tolls come into effect, the number of Gautrain commuters could increase by between 5000 and 7000 a day.
While this is good news for the agency, it has become a problem for commuters using the train every day.
Paul Browning, a public transport consultant from Moreletta Park, said he had to take his car to Joburg earlier this week as he could not findparking at the Centurion station.
“My meeting was at 12.30pm, so I left home at around 10.30am. There being no Gautrain feeder bus services in Moreletta Park, I drove to the Centurion station. As I had feared, the Gautrain parking was full and every available piece of open ground around the station was full of parked cars. All I could do was to revert to plan B and drive to Johannesburg,” he said.
The Pretoria News last year reported about parking problems at the Pretoria station where commuters had to wait in long queues outside the station until a parking spot became available.
Gautrain Management Agency spokeswoman Barbara Jensen confirmed parking remained a problem.
“We are working to find short- and long-term solutions…
“Discussions with property owners adjacent to the stations are one of the solutions.”
Jensen said the agency was aware of the problem with bus routes and was constantly assessing the possibility of new ones.
“We are awaiting the approval of new bus route (applications) by the licensing authorities,” she said.
“We also have to keep in mind that once the Tshwane Bus Rapid Transport is up and running, this service will provide an important transport system to and from Gautrain stations and bus stops.”
INTEGRATED APPROACH NEEDED
Jensen said effective public transport needed an integrated approach.
“Public transport cannot compete with public transport,” she said.
The head of the Tshwane Bus Rapid Transport managing unit, Lungile Madlala, said Tshwane Rapid Transit was working with the Gautrain Management Agency to ensure all routes in the city were covered.
Madlala said the building of lanes along Nana Sita (Skinner) Street between Paul Kruger and Nelson Mandela Drive had begun last week and was expected to be completed in July.
She said the two “memory box” stations along this section of road works would be at the intersection of Nana Sita and Paul Kruger streets.
The construction of the Hatfield Tshwane Rapid Transit station would be completed in about four weeks.
Medium to long term (five years and after), further development of the Tshwane Rapid Transit trunk network included extensions to the east of Menlyn, between Atteridgeville and the CBD, Centurion and Menlyn, and between Centurion and Akasia to the west of the CBD. -Pretoria News