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Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest metropolis with an estimated population of 3.5 million. The city is also has one of the lowest population densities of any major urban centre in Africa, consequently leading to serious urban sprawl and transportation challenges.

Cape Town’s current transportation system is typical of most emerging economies. The city and surrounding suburbs are serviced by a vast and chaotic system of mini bus taxis, which cause heavy congestion on the roadway network and are often not properly maintained. There is also an aging rail network, known as Metrorail, which offers overcrowded rail services. Neither of these systems are particularly attractive transportation options, which explains why Cape Town’s road network is increasingly congested with private automobiles.

South Africa is in the process of modernizing its public transportation system. This initiative was undertaken as part of the 2010 World Cup, and now is being ramped up to include a $14 billion upgrade of the railway stock in the country. The rail deal is currently up to tender, and Bombardier is hoping to leverage its Gaugteng train success story, but is faced with stiff competition from European and Chinese bidders. Once the rail modernization has been completed, the public will have access to new trains and better security at stations and on the trains, an issue that has long been a concern for commuters and in particular women.

The public transport upgrade also includes the construction of Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) bus service. This IRT bus service will connect with existing minibus and Metrorail networks at specified hubs. The idea behind the IRT bus service is to make as much use of existing road and rail infrastructure so as to reduce the capital cost of the transit upgrade. Unlike traditional bus services, rapid buses in the IRT network will be separate from regular highway traffic, which means they will not be affected by traffic congestion on the roadways; this will ensure secure high-speed service. Furthermore, the rapid transit system is designed to only stop at secure designated stations, or transit hubs.

It is hoped all of these factors will encourage more Capetonians to switch from their automobiles to transit, thus reducing traffic congestion and stress on existing road network.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Town

http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/irt/Pages/default.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrorail_Western_Cape

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-news/african-and-mideast/bombardier-making-tracks-in-south-africa/article2056519/

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