Gautrain - a sustainable development initiative

Sustainable development calls for an integrated approach, which considers the inter-relationship between transport, the environment, the economy and society as a whole. The aim of sustainable development is to build, operate and maintain a system that will be beneficial to all in the long run. Essentially, it means that the developments will serve our children, without putting a burden on them.

The diagram below graphically illustrates the integration of the environment, society and the economy in order to develop a sustainable public transport system such as the Gautrain.


Interrelated Sustainable Development

The Gautrain Management Agency aims to facilitate and be a catalyst for sustainable development. The Gautrain, therefore, has to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The Gautrain complements and supplements the other public transport modes in Gauteng, allowing our citizens a safe, efficient and reliable solution. The Gautrain goes even further, by attempting to be sufficiently attractive with superior travel times and improved safety and security, in order to serve people who would otherwise select private transport.

Our rapidly growing cities with their urban sprawl are clearly not sustainable. Effective and efficient public transport, and a limit to city sprawl, are essential to make our cities sustainable. The Gautrain's contribution to sustainable development is not only critical to environmental protection and social upliftment, but it also makes good business sense when the spin-off effects, such as increased job creation, improved spatial structures and overall economic growth, are taken into consideration.

Benefits of the Gautrain to Sustainable Development as evident from research done by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) include:

  • Limiting greenhouse gas emissions to minimise the negative impact on the climate;
  • Reducing road traffic congestion and the resulting congestion costs;
  • Significantly reducing the number of road accidents, fatalities and injuries;
  • Improving mobility levels of the entire community, which also will narrow the division between mobility levels in our society;
  • Improving accessibility to primary services of health, education and employment for the entire community; and
  • Reducing conventional emissions and transport-related noise so that the Gautrain does not constitute a significant public health concern.

Public Transport and the Environment

The Centre for Transport Excellence has compared the use of rail transport with that of road-based transport. Public transport produces, on average, per passenger kilometre, 95% less carbon monoxide (CO), 92% fewer volatile organic compounds, 45% less CO and 48% less nitrogen oxide.

According to the UK Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs, on a passenger kilometre basis, travelling by train is significantly less carbon intensive than travelling by car or plane.

Considering that the traffic volumes are escalating by approximately 7% per year in the corridor between Johannesburg and Pretoria in Tshwane, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from road-based vehicles will increasingly contribute to global warming. And, as the influx of people to Gauteng intensifies, pollution caused by road-based vehicles will also increase.

Carbon emissions from the Gautrain are considerably lower per passenger transported than for private vehicles, notwithstanding the higher speeds and even when there are no major traffic incidents. Energy use by rail is three to five times more efficient than cars per person kilometre based on full capacity. Travelling with the Gautrain reduces your contribution to climate change.

The risk of dying in a road accident is extremely high in South Africa. The latest available statistics from the Road Traffic Management Corporation show that approximately 1,710 fatalities occurred on the country's roads during the 2016 festive season.

The Gautrain, in addition to its low visual and noise impacts, lessens South Africa's dependence on imported fuel and oil. With our cars having an average occupancy level of 1.2 persons per car, with cars weighing more than 1,000kg on average, the energy saving is obvious.


Gautrain and Society

Given that global urban populations are expected to increase by 27% over the next 30 years (UITP, Ticket to the Future) and the rapid rates of urbanisation in Africa, providing a safe and secure rail system like the Gautrain becomes a top priority, particularly in a fast-developing Gauteng Province. Passengers of all demographics require safe, stress-free travel. The Gautrain Feasibility Study found that, on average, it is five to ten times safer to travel by rail transport, compared to road transport.

Poor transport infrastructure marginalises the poor, limits the ability of certain members of society to move freely, and makes all travel less safe. The Gautrain brings independence to all, especially to women, learners and people with disabilities. It therefore assists to lower the socio-economic cost of travel to society.

The Gautrain fosters a sense of community. People travelling together are more likely to feel a community connection, by sharing information and being sociable, than those travelling in cars in isolation.

Urban space is a limited resource impacting on quality of life for all those living and working in a city. Public transport uses the limited space more efficiently, allowing all citizens to enjoy their city. Even zero-emission energy-efficient cars take up more space than public transport.

Efficient land use, to which public transport such as the Gautrain contributes, produces results far beyond the immediate benefit of increased use of public transport. It has the potential to change the way we live and travel significantly, reducing our individual carbon footprints while preserving and enhancing our mobility. It further encourages people to have a more active, healthy lifestyle, particularly if they are walking or cycling to their stations.


The benefits to society of a dense city are:

  • Improved accessibility: Higher densities allow for closer proximity of housing, employment and retail, reducing driving distances and enabling communities to plan for and support alternative travel options.
  • Improved mobility: In many central business districts, trips taken for shopping, dining or other non-commuting purposes are often made on foot​ — even by those who drive to work.
  • Improved integration: Higher-density development, multi-use buildings, and compact apartments and offices are more energy efficient and extend public transport's contribution by integrating it with other sectors of the economy.​​

Economic Growth as a result of the Gautrain

Among the Gautrain Project's primary objectives is to accelerate economic growth, development and infrastructure delivery in the Gauteng Province. To measure this objective, the Gautrain Management Agency commissioned KPMG to determine the economic impact that the Gautrain System has had in the province since inception, including job creation, lifestyle changes, links to government policy and property development.

The results show that the Gautrain has achieved this primary objective and has contributed to growing Gauteng's economy. The Gautrain has strengthened existing development nodes in Gauteng by promoting and restructuring urban areas and revitalising the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni central business districts. The following is a summary of the economic study:

  • R20 billion total GDP impact added to the provincial economy during the construction phase;
  • 34,000 direct jobs and about 87,000 indirect jobs were created during construction;
  • For each year of the Gautrain's operations, R1.7 billion is added to the provincial economy;
  • R617 million of the R3.2 billion household income generated from the Gautrain's APEX and OPEX contributes to poverty alleviation in Gauteng;
  • R46 million total GDP impact added to the GPG economy through property development;
  • 245,000 total jobs created as a result of property development; and
  • R10 billion retail property development in close proximity to Gautrain stations.

The Gautrain is a sustainable transport system that continues
to facilitate sustainable growth and liveable cities.