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Public transport can drive economic growth

Jul 04 2016 13:24
Lameez Omarjee

Pretoria - An efficient public transport system will contribute to socio-economic development that will lead to job creation and improved access to markets, a transport conference on Monday has heard.

Speaking at the 35th annual Southern African Transport Conference in Pretoria, Clement Manyungwana, a senior official from the Department of Transport, explained the importance of developing operations and infrastructure in the transport sector for the benefit of the greater economy.

"We need to use public transport to play a role in creating an economy that is efficient and effective, reduces poverty and addresses environmental challenges," said Manyungwana.

Benefits of public transport include providing access to markets and services, making efficient use of resources by giving employers access to labour pools and it enables trade.

It also helps to reduce the carbon footprint and fuel consumption levels, explained Majileng Ngqaleni, deputy director general of intergovernmental relations of the National Treasury.

Addressing transport efficiency will contribute towards economic growth and job creation and create global competitiveness. "Public transport is the backbone that will drive the process of economic growth," said Ngqaleni.

Barriers to efficiency

Among some of the challenges to efficiency, Ngqaleni said, is the legacy of apartheid which created segregated settlements, far from urban areas and economic hubs.

"Public transport is inefficient because we have inherited inefficient spaces," she said. Overcoming this existing challenge requires better planning to integrate infrastructure plans to reduce segregation. "Public transport should develop corridors to leverage investment," she told Fin 24.
About 60% of poor households (earning less than R500) spend close to 20% on public transport, to travel towards urban areas, said Ngqaleni.

This speaks to the continent's greater challenges of poor linkages between areas which create delays and contribute to rising costs for individuals to move between spaces, added Manyungwana.

Investing in infrastructure development investment

Over the past 10 years, Treasury has contributed R167bn towards infrastructure and operations subsidies, with an average annual growth of 18%.

Provincial bus services and rail are the most subsidised. The majority (60%) of the spending has gone towards rail (Gautrain and Prasa). Allocations to bus services have been modest at 5-13%.

Minibus taxis are not subsidised at all and have the most ridership, carrying   67% of passengers. However, provincial busses receive a 39% of the subsidy but only carry 8% of passengers.

"This is not sustainable for the long-term," said Ngqaleni. Subsidies need to be allocated more effectively. If mini busses are to be formalised, then they should not lose their efficiency, she explained.

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