The Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants more research to be done into the feasibility of the Gautrain project because it does not believe enough motorists will leave their vehicles at home and take the train.

The Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants more research to be done into the feasibility of the Gautrain project because it does not believe enough motorists will leave their vehicles at home and take the train.

The project is aimed at reducing traffic congestion on the roads between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The plan is for the Gautrain to travel along a proposed 80 km route at between 160 and 180 km/h, with an estimated travel time between Pretoria and Johannesburg of about 35 minutes, and 12 minutes between Sandton and Johannesburg International Airport.

But the Chamber does not think motorists will use the system and no studies have been done to see how many people would be prepared to use it.

“The project is to be introduced in an area with reputably the lowest levels of public transport awareness. There simply is no public transport culture there, although the majority of the population have no alternative but to remain dependent on an increasingly inadequate and unco-ordinated public transport system,” said Marius de Jager, the chief executive of JCCI.

"No hard data, other than demand forecasting models, backs up the claim in the Bohlweki Environmental Impact Assessment that a sufficient volume of motorists will be prepared to switch from the convenience of private cars to public transport to make the project financially sustainable. In that case, the government is committed to subsidising the shortfall," De Jager said.

The Chamber said current research was not acceptable. “Reference is made to the experience of successfully converting car users to public transportation elsewhere in the world, notably in the United States. The Bohlweki Report identifies ‘potential ridership’ as the ‘greatest risk’ and then weakly suggests that ‘the evidence in favour of compelling pressures to induce passengers to use the Gautrain is substantial’.

“Our submission is that insufficient, if any, professional research has been conducted into the relatively high levels of dependence on and usage of private motoring in South Africa and specifically in Gauteng. Our situation is not comparable to the US or anywhere else in the developed world. To rely entirely on the results obtained from demand forecasting models using stated preference surveys as a definitive input is in our view risky, if not fatally flawed,” read the Chamber’s statement.

De Jager said a good system was needed to get commuters from their homes to the station. "The success of the Gautrain project hinges on the efficiency of the feeder service in getting the commuter from door-to station-to door. Currently, public transportation in metropolitan Johannesburg is unco-ordinated, inadequate and not user-friendly. No comprehensive planning has been directed at this crucial aspect, it has just been left to the bidders. In our opinion this is highly irresponsible."

Will this project work? Would you leave your car at home and take the Gautrain?