A bold plan for a monorail train, linking Soweto and Johannesburg, has predictably come under fire by the taxi owners. The R12bn venture, wholly financed by a private Malaysian consortium, will carry up to 1.5 million commuters daily.
The taxi owners have expressed reservations because they were “not consulted”, but later reports seem to indicate that they have, at least temporarily, been placated. “The National Taxi Alliance (NTA) has endorsed the project and we are in talks with them about the system,” said transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs.
Now excuse me for asking, but if I decide to set up a grocery store, am I expected to call on all the other grocery stores in town and ask permission? It’s my money, and if I see an opportunity, or a niche in the market, nobody can stop me risking it in any way I see fit.
Commuters from Soweto are apparently often faced with delays of up to 4 hours to get to work in the morning. If a company can come up with an affordable, reliable and safe alternative to the kamakazi taxis, then good for them. At a planned ticket price of R10 for a round trip, and trains leaving every 15 minutes, this system could be life changing for millions of commuters.
The Government has given the Monorail company 3 months to come up with a local BEE partner. Why doesn’t the National Taxi Alliance get involved if they feel threatened? Even better still, why doesn’t the government modify their Taxi Recapitalisation scheme somewhat, and allow existing taxi owners to bring in their unroadworthy taxis and be paid out in shares in the Monorail venture?
I think that this is a brilliant idea, and the final piece in the transport puzzle for Johannesburg. And yes, the minibus taxis will still have a role ferrying commuters to and from the monorail stations. The same will presumably apply to the Gautrain, with buses and metered taxi services like the superb SACAB providing the final station to work, and station to home, legs of the daily commute.
For the “train surfers”, the monorail might offer an even better “high” with the trains running on tracks 6m up, although the speeds of about 40km/h might not be exciting enough for an adrenaline rush. On the other hand, for the poor, over-dosed commuters, the monorail should be a pleasant change from the daily suicide run in the taxis.