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Opinion: Public Private Partnerships are essential to sustainable public transport

Home Transport & Logistics Commercial & Fleet Opinion: Public Private Partnerships are essential to sustainable public transport

By Bazil Govender, senior business development manager: Unitrans People

The quest for a sustainable and integrated public transport sector in South Africa continues to face significant challenges. Misalignment of transport and mobility policies, disparate funding models, ageing infrastructure and resources are primarily self-created barriers to developing effective transportation networks. This is evidenced by the numerous extensions to public transport commuter contracts – for which the majority are still extended, as opposed to negotiated or put out to tender. However, these challenges are not insurmountable if the drive for sustainable transport solutions is elevated on the national agenda.

The complexity of aligning multiple stakeholders with different objectives has led to a disjointed approach that often fails to meet the diverse needs of the country’s commuters. Notwithstanding the soundly crafted policies, implementation has been slow and inconsistent, leading to a perception that transport is a low national priority, yet it should be prioritised if the country is to progress economically. When transport is readily available, access to opportunities increases exponentially.

Industry stakeholders have been struggling to fulfil the collective mandate for a functional public transport system for over 30 years due to numerous litigations and challenges to the implementation of subsidy and policy changes, as well as the lack of approved Integrated Transport Plans (ITPs). Yet this is not a battle that needs to be fought alone.

The private sector has the means, ability, and appetite to collaborate with the government to develop sustainable, long-term solutions.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) formalise the much-needed collaboration between the government and the private sector, bringing all stakeholders to the table. This approach eliminates fragmentation, allowing everyone to work towards a common goal while achieving commercial, social and transformation objectives.

Solutions that can be trusted

PPPs hold significant potential to transform the transport landscape, delivering a successful and sustainable transport network that will deliver the interoperability and integration for seamless mobility that South African commuters need, in addition to building confidence in changing travel behaviour and choices.

Neither the government nor the private sector has the complete resource capacity to implement the necessary solutions independently, but the power lies in working together. Meaningful and sustainable change in the public transport ecosystem will be achieved through a partnership approach, when the government and private sector actively engage in a formal and well-thought-out plan of action.

If implemented and managed well, PPPs may prove to be a viable process for leveraging the expertise and knowledge required to deliver on inherently sound policies, maintain infrastructure, and generate funding – all needed to inject renewed energy into a sector entangled in a quagmire of competing ideologies.

Real change can be brought about by working with the private sector through concession agreements or long-term investment mechanisms. South Africa needs a sustainable, reliable, efficient and punctual integrated multi-modal transport system daily. This is critical to promoting mobility and creating growth opportunities.

A new approach is needed to create a blueprint for the future. At Unitrans Africa, we firmly believe in the power of doing. We are committed to collaborating with all tiers of government to drive change in the public transport sector. It’s not just about talking about the need for change; it’s about actively collaborating and developing sustainable solutions while steadfastly committing to action.

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