Rail Infrastructure Transforms Sustainable Tourism In South Africa

Last year, travel and tourism contributed almost half a trillion rand to South Africa’s economy and generated 8.6% of all the economic activity in the country. This is according to an annual review by the World Travel and Tourism Council¹.

During the State of the Nation Address in June 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa recognised the potential of tourism sector which acts as a catalyst to job creation as well as economic growth and announced a bold new plan to double international tourist arrivals by 2030.

Key to this plan was upgrading and expanding the country’s rail network.

“We want a South Africa that has prioritised its rail networks, and is producing high-speed trains connecting our megacities and the remotest areas of our country,” the President said, “We should imagine a country where bullet trains pass through Johannesburg as they travel from here (Cape Town) to Musina, and they stop in Buffalo City on their way from eThekwini back here (Cape Town)”.

Transport is an essential component of tourism and rail - an eco-friendly, fuel efficient and cost-effective way to move millions every day safely across the country. For the past century, transportation has fueled the world’s economy. In recent decades, road and air have dominated many nations’ transportation investments to the detriment of the most sustainable solution to mass transit – rail. For the planet’s economic and environmental health, it is time to restore the balance between road, air and rail.

Rail is considered a significant engine of inclusive growth and development for South Africa, with the potential to contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of the country. Developed rail infrastructure will ensure that tourist and local South Africans can move from one place to another faster and safer, boosting tourism and trade. This will create new jobs, save energy and improve the environment, while moving people, raw materials and goods more efficiently nationwide.

Rail is the answer. Rail is the only sustainable solution of many of today’s environmental, social and economic challenges.

The Gautrain is a shining example of South Africa and tourists visiting the country have compared our transit system on par to any other modern rail system globally.

Bombardier Transportation designed and supplied a fleet of 96 state-of-the-art BOMBARDIER ELECTROSTAR rail vehicles for the Gautrain system along with 5 years of maintenance services.

The Gautrain was officially launched in 2010, ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup being hosted in South Africa. According to the Bombela Concession Company, it has, since then, ferried more than 60 million passengers along the 80-kilometre route it travels daily between the bustling metropolitans of Johannesburg and Tshwane and operated 380 000-plus individual trips. It is one of the most reliable commuter train services in the world, with an average service availability of around 98.4%².

It is an exciting time to be part of the rail sector in South Africa. Investment in the development of the African rail network is set to reach an all-time high and rail projects are being prioritised at both a national and local level.

Government recently announced plans to spend R288 billion on transport and logistics over the medium term, with R41.3 billion earmarked for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to modernise its rail network, overhaul signalling and renew its rolling stock for inner-city and long-distance train commutes.

Rail is good for both the economy and the environment. What’s more, it’s driven by popular demand, with today’s travelers choosing rail.

But we, at Bombardier Transportation, believe that this is only the beginning and that the potential of rail to transform the way South Africans and visitors to our shores get around, has yet to be realised. Ironically, this opportunity offers the best opportunity to shift societies towards sustainable transportation. Investing in rail stimulates economies while reducing CO2 emissions and urban congestion.

The smart cities of the future will depend on transportation systems that are efficient and environmentally friendly and that have the capacity to move the masses quickly, safely, comfortably and at the right price.

Monorails are a safe, reliable answer to climate change and global warming because they emit low carbons and can be suspended overhead so require less space. These systems could be deployed in densely populated areas or act as feeder lines to larger mass transit systems, like townships, to connect those who live there with important economic hubs, ensure last mile connectivity and reduce congestion on our roads.

In recent years, monorails have been mooted for Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town but these projects never took off. We believe that it’s time to bring these projects back onto our transportation agenda.

With our plan to connect and create smooth ride to passengers at airports in Johannesburg, Capetown and Durban, Bombardier is keen to work with the state and national government to offer our globally proven automated people movers in South Africa.

In addition, we believe that e-mobility vehicles will feature strongly in the smart cities of the future, and that’s why Bombardier Transportation has its own, complete e-mobility portfolio and allows cities and the transportation industry to easily incorporate electric mobility.,

As we plough ahead into the fourth industrial revolution and beyond, we need a transport system that can adapt to the accompanying technological developments and broader social and economic changes, to be fit-for-purpose for tomorrow’s passengers. Rail presents us with a viable way in which to meet the ever-increasing demands placed on our transport system both by everyday South Africans and a booming tourism industry. Get on board – think economy, think rail.

Read the full article here: Railways Africa