Gautrain's vision outlined at SARA conference
At the recent Southern African Railways Association (SARA) Conference and Exhibition, Tshepo Kgobe, Chief Operating Officer of the Gautrain Management Agency, provided valuable insights as a panellist during the CEO’s Think Tank session, sponsored by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA). Kgobe discussed the agency’s ambitious expansion plans, the intricacies of managing large-scale railway projects and the strategic vision for the future of public transportation.
Kgobe’s contribution to the discussion centred on an extensive initiative to expand the Gautrain railway network by 180 kilometres, beginning with the Soweto line, which marks the first phase of the project and extends to Jabulani. The development is part of a broader phased plan that promises to connect and transform communities through improved accessibility.
Currently, the Gautrain Management Agency is in a pivotal stage, having submitted their feasibility study for funding, eagerly awaiting the outcome that will dictate the project’s trajectory. Kgobe also shed light on the Limpopo-Rail project—a national endeavour that is in its initial stages, and the study has been completed. Whilst the project does not fall on the shoulders of the GMA team – they are assisting in moving the project forward.
With an eye on the upcoming end of the current concession in 2026, Kgobe emphasised the need for meticulous planning to ensure a seamless transition to a new contract. This planning is vital to enhance service quality without impacting the commuter’s experience, a sentiment that resonates with the agency’s commitment to continuous improvement. (PS: the RFP has been issued!)
Responding to public interest, Kgobe announced the board’s approval of a new commercialisation strategy. This plan is set to revitalise railway stations, transforming them into lively centres of activity and convenience, and is already underway with the introduction of services like licensing and testing centres at various stations.
When discussing challenges, Kgobe highlighted the public’s understanding of the funding and economics of public transport as a major hurdle. He advocated for a shift in perspective, focusing on the significant economic and social impacts of public transport, rather than its direct profitability.
Kgobe’s vision extends to fostering a community-centric approach, where the sustainability and security of the railway lines are supported by the communities they serve. This approach aims to cultivate a protective and appreciative attitude towards these vital public assets.
“Effective public transport isn’t just about managing costs; it’s about proper investment. When budgets and subsidies fall short, they limit what we can achieve. Let’s shift the conversation from profit to the broader benefits of public transport—the economic growth it fosters, and the shared value it creates. Protecting and securing our rail lines for the long term won’t come from more guards, but from communities valuing and caring for the services these lines provide, recognising the economic vitality they support.”
The insights shared by Tshepo Kgobe at the SARA event reflect a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to expanding and enhancing public transport infrastructure. His expertise and leadership are guiding the Gautrain Management Agency towards a future where public transportation is not only a mode of travel but a driver of community development and economic growth.
Tshepo Kgobe will take over as GMA, CEO next year February 2024.