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Gautrain under investigation

Dec 04 2011 14:06
Antoinette Slabbert

Pretoria - Are the Gautrain and the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) colluding to divide up the market in respect of parking services?

This is the question West Rand businessman Alfonso Niemand has asked the Competition Commission to investigate.

Keith Weeks, head of enforcement and exemptions at the Competition Commission, confirmed that the issue had been referred to a colleague for a provisional investigation, on the basis of which a decision may be taken about a formal investigation.

In a letter to the commission, Niemand said he travels regularly to OR Tambo airport, opting to take the Gautrain from Marlboro station to the airport.

His frustration is that when he climbs aboard at Marlboro, he has to go via Sandton to the airport. The same applies if he takes the Gautrain at  Rhodesfield station, which is only 800m from the airport. Each time passengers have to travel to Sandton - away from the airport - before they can continue to OR Tambo.

Airport passengers occupy different coaches from the commuters and those doors do not open on the route from Sandton to allow passengers to board at Marlboro and Rhodesfield on the way to the airport.

Niemand says that several enquiries to the Gauteng authorities and Bombela, which operates the system, have failed to discover the reason for these arrangements.

On one occasion he asked a Gauteng government official on Marlboro station the same question.

“There is an agreement between Acsa and Bombela, in terms of which passengers are discouraged from travelling from Rhodesfield and Marlboro (to the airport) because this will deprive Acsa of parking revenue.”

A couple of years ago Acsa built a brand new parking garage at OR Tambo.

Niemand said that as a consequence of the alleged collusion parking areas at Rhodesfield and Marlboro, which were built using taxpayers' money, are underutilised. Airport passengers prefer to park at Sandton station or drive directly to the airport.

He asked whether it is coincidental that Acsa's parking fees are virtually the same as those for a trip from Marlboro, via Sandton, to the airport, plus the parking fee at Marlboro.

Weeks told Sake24 that if the allegations are true, this would certainly be problematic. The commission, however, needs more information to decide whether an investigation is justified.

Bombela previously told Niemand that the Gautrain service to the airport is an exclusive service between Sandton and OR Tambo, with extra space for luggage. “Doors to these coaches do not open at Marlboro and Rhodesfield, so as to prevent commuters boarding and disturbing airport passengers.”

Responding to enquiry, Dr Barbara Jensen, spokesperson for the Gautrain management agency, strongly denied that any such agreement between Gautrain and Acsa existed. “From the start we said there would be two separate services.”

These are firstly the airport service from Sandton to OR Tambo. “After requests from the public, we opened the airport service doors at Marlboro as well. This also makes it possible for airport passengers to transfer to the train to Pretoria.”

The second service is the general passenger service from Rosebank (and later Park Station) and Hatfield, and the link to Rhodesfield.

Acsa did not respond to a request for comment.

acsa  |  collusion  |  gautrain



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