Inside South Africa - Transport and people

[Extract from the Department of Transport 2013 and Market Decisions Database]
Market Decisions GIS

The role of the Department of Transport is to lead the development of efficient integrated transport systems by creating a framework of sustainable policies and regulators. The main roles of the Department of Transport and its public entities in relation to the transport sector are:

  • Policy and strategy formulation in all functional areas
  • Substantive regulation in functional areas where DoT has legislative competence
  • Implementation in functional areas where DoT has legislative competence
  • Leadership, coordination and liaison in all functional areas
  • Capacity building in all functional areas
  • Monitoring and evaluation and oversight in all functional areas
  • Stimulate investment and development across all modes of transport
  • Maximize the contribution of transport to the economic and social development goals of the country by providing fully integrated transport operations and infrastructure.

The public transport sector in South Africa comprises the rail commuter system and the bus industry. The bus industry comprises of municipal buses, the new Bus Rapid Transit system and the subsidised buses.  The other main commuter transporter is the mini-bus taxi system.  In the 2013 Household Travel Survey, published by Statistics South Africa, it was found that just over 65% of households use the taxi service, 21% use commuter buses and 10% use the rail.

Foreign Arrivals in South Africa

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Air Travel

Aviation plays a very important role in economic development in South Africa and tourism enhancement for international travellers. The emphasis regarding the implementation of the Air Lift Strategy and the Yamoussoukro Decision will remain central and a priority in planning within our aviation environment. The aviation programme is responsible for the co-ordination of the aviation infrastructure and operations.  Agencies sharing this responsibility are the Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa, Airports Company of South Africa, Air Traffic Navigation Services and the Regulation Committee. The strategic partners are the airlines and independent airports operators. The challenges within the Aviation sector include:

  • Review and implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration
  • Implementation of the Airports Development Plan
  • Protection of the ACSA Balance Sheet

Approximately R25 Billion has been invested over the past 5 years in a Build programme for the main airports. 30 million passengers travel through South Africa’s airports each year. This comprises domestic and international passengers. The international arrivals into South Africa by air is approximately 3,2 million. There are 600,000 African arrivals by air that are regarded as international arrivals. The Table below shows the figures for all Arrivals in 2013 being 15,154,991. The figure of below of all arrivals is 15 million. It is made up of all arrivals by land, sea and air for both national and international. By now, the country should be attracting at least 5 million arrivals from international countries.


Public Transport

More than 65% of South Africans use public transport every day. This implies that the rail, bus, all taxi fare services, historically and currently associated with public transport, should be affordable, efficient, safe and sustainable. The Public Transport Programme is responsible for the co-ordination of public transport infrastructure and operations. This programme is also shared with Provinces, Municipalities, and the soon to be established National Public Transport Regulator. Strategic partners will be the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Industrial Development Corporation, SANTACO, SA BOA and emerging bus organizations.

In a household survey on transport conducted by Statistics South Africa in 2013, nearly 40% of workers (39,1%) used public transport as their main mode of travel to work while slightly fewer workers used private transport (38,4%). Approximately one in five workers reported walking all the way to work (21,1%). Workers living in metropolitan areas were more likely to use taxis (29,6%) than trains (9,2%) and buses (6,3%). On the other hand, workers living in rural areas were less likely to use taxis (21,9%) than their metropolitan and urban counterparts, but more likely to use buses (13,8%).

The total number of public transport trips per weekday used to travel to work is estimated at 5,4 million, which is significantly higher than the 5 million measured in 2003. A total of 3,7 million minibus taxi trips were made on a daily basis to work. More than half of all these trips to work were made in Gauteng (1,4 million), and KwaZulu-Natal (0,8 million) combined.

The proportional share of the different public transport modes remained the same between 2003 and 2013, with 68% of these being public transport trips made by minibus taxi, 20% by bus and 13% by train. The percentage of public transport users who made at least one transfer decreased from 26,5% to 17,1% between 2003 and 2013. Train users were more likely than any other kind of public transport users to make one or more modal transfer (change in type of transport).

The reliance on public transport is high. There are currently just over 130,000 legal taxis on the roads. The Rea Vaya has had a positive impact for residents travelling to and from certain parts of Soweto to the City Centre.  However, unlike the BRT in Cape Town, which is used by a wide section of the population, Rea Vaya in Johannesburg is used by a select demographic. This is likely to improve as more roads are incorporated into the BRT network and new areas are introduced and become accessible to commuters.

Road Travel

According to the DoT website, government has worked on more than 600,000 km of new roads since 1994. The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Scheme, which played a crucial role during the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in reducing traffic congestion between the ORT, Tshwane and JHB nodes. This scheme will continue to play a major role in transporting people between the two cities. The maximum road network that SANRAL is mandated to maintain is 20,000 km, which has been identified and will be incorporated into the Gauteng network. Rural roads in most of the Provinces have been upgraded and constructed through labour intensive programmes.

The DoT would like to tackle the following major challenges within the road sector, however it is in the implementation process that they fail dismally.
The challenges which remain are:

  • Continuous and increased funding for Roads and Traffic Management
  • Reducing road fatalities
  • Implementation of AARTO
  • Capacity building for road infrastructure maintenance at District and Municipal level.

Already, South Africans spend 8% to 12% of their income on transport. In reality, the roads are very poorly maintained, and a study done by the Automobile Associations of South Africa recorded an annual total of 70 000 minibus taxi crashes.  Minibus taxis have no regard for other road users and drive according to their own laws. In this regard, the Department of Transport has taken scant action with regard to the Taxi associations. While minibus taxis are the most popular mode of transport in urban areas, they are also the cause of frustration among law-abiding motorists, and are responsible for many road fatalities. Of the 36 lives lost on our roads daily, three are lost in mini bus taxi related accidents.

Rail Travel

The Rail Programme is responsible for both passenger and freight infrastructure and operations. This responsibility towards passengers, goods and maintenance is shared with Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) and Transnet.

The following challenges characterise the rail sector:

  • Rails assets across the board have reached the end of their life cycles and need for acquisition of new rolling stock for PRASA and Transnet.
  • The National Master Plan (NATMAP), recommends a long distance rapid rail system, connecting Johannesburg to Durban, Cape Town and Musina
  • South Africa is expected to drive an African programme to connect the North and South areas of Gauteng
  • Mining houses and provinces are proposing new rail lines with private sector players
  • All provinces are proposing projects linked to the revitalization of our branch lines
  • All players in the sector agree on the massive rail investment programme in South Africa.

Again, the implementation of the rail programme and the fact that the people running the rail organisations have little knowledge of it, hinders further development. Trains are popular because a single train ticket only costs R8.50 to the townships and towns around the Gauteng province.

Metro trains have had some problems with regard to safety and overloading. No international traveller would want to travel on public trains in South Africa, unless it is the Blue Train, or the first class carriages of Shosholoza Meyl.

More recently both Prasa and Transnet have been in the news because of the purchase of trains that do not suit South African lines.  This story broke and immediately racism was attributed to be the reason for Transnet’s woes. However, Transnet executives state that “the Afro 4000 diesel locomotives were primarily aimed at operating on non-electrified lines”.

To conclude, the passenger rail system in South Africa is a dismal failure, the stations are poorly maintained, and the trains could do with an overhaul that requires respect from the users, commitment by the train operator and the obligation to adequately service the commuters.