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South Africa's new high-speed rail not for country's poor

by fairleft Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 12:26:53 AM EST

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The Gautrain is not for you.

The Gautrain is the high-speed rail vanity project that accompanies the football stadium vanity projects (even when there were perfectly serviceable older stadiums nearby) that South Africa has built for FIFA but cannot afford. I understand that 'Eurotrib' (or those who think of themselves as Eurotrib) is a pro-HST site, but hopefully not uniformly, because here is a high speed rail project where the social wrong and white elephantism absolutely cry out. The basic injustice is described in the following paragraph:

All in the Name of the Beautiful Gain: On the World Cup in South Africa

South Africa desperately needs large-scale public infrastructure, especially in the area of public transport which in some cities, including Johannesburg, is almost entirely absent. The Gautrain, which was launched on Tuesday the 8th June (just in time for the big event) is probably the biggest irony here: in a country where the large majority rely on unsafe private mini-bus taxis to travel long distances on a daily basis, the Gautrain offers high speed, luxury transport for tourists and those travelling between Johannesburg and Pretoria . . . who can afford it as a single trip between the airport and Sandton will set you back a massive R100.

The injustice was first a major issue five years ago, with the news that the cost projections were boosted from $1 billion to at least $3 billion. And note the paragraph at the end in the following, reporting studies that found bus-only lanes on the Johannesburg-Pretoria highway would do the job of the expensive rail line at a fraction of the cost:


Trouble on the line for new SA train
By Justin Pearce
BBC News website, Johannesburg
Monday, 21 November 2005, 01:33 GMT  
It is a single project which, if it goes ahead, will cost almost three times South Africa's transport budget for this year.

Depending on who you believe, it will either revolutionise the way South Africans see public transport and tempt them away from gridlocked roads - or it will swallow public money while transporting only a handful of white-collar professionals.

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The Gautrain is intended to link Johannesburg - South Africa's economic hub - with the national capital, Tshwane (previously called Pretoria), 50km away in 40 minutes. . . .

In a country where passenger train services have been in a slow decline over the last few decades, the idea of a new railway route using new technology sounded like something out of science fiction.

But when the national treasury announced recently that the project was to cost government 20bn rand ($3bn) as opposed to the 7bn rand that had been spoken of previously, suddenly the Gautrain passed from science fiction into news headlines - and politicians started asking questions.

Matters were not helped by the fact that in the very same week that parliament's transport committee was discussing the Gautrain, commuters frustrated at delays started burning trains on the existing lines, with 26 carriages going up in flame in a single evening.

Jeremy Cronin, chairman of the parliamentary transport committee, pointed out the dangers of a mismatch between the large investment in the Gautrain alongside the neglect of the older services that serve poor, black suburbs. . . .

The concerns from parliament followed a presentation by public transport expert Romano del Mistro, who argued that bus-only lanes could be added to the Johannesburg-Pretoria highway at a fraction of the cost of the Gautrain, while the bus journey on a traffic-free lane would be only marginally longer than on the proposed train.

And word is the final cost, actually, will be closer to $5 billion than to 3.

A world-class employment project or a luxury for fat cats?

By Andrew Molefe
March 2009

. . . In March 2008, while the building of the train was on full steam, chairman of the National Assembly's transport portfolio committee and deputy secretary-general of the SACP, Jeremy Cronin, bitterly complained about the cost that had apparently "quietly crept up to R35 billion."

A most prominent sceptic of the project, he told Parliament during a budget debate that his information was that the project's cost was escalating "quietly and below the radar screen", though MPs "were told, hand on heart, here in Parliament just a few years ago, that the absolute upper limit was [R20 billion]". . . .

The article then focuses on more criticism of the project from the poor and left out:

The fiercest criticism though, came from ordinary South Africans, who believed that money was being spent on the rich at the expense of the poor. They presented a laudable case, claiming the train will contemptuously bypass the poor masses.

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Train won't go here.

"It does not have any stops at or lines to any of the townships of Gauteng where the transport problem is severe, and where the majority of the people of Gauteng are living. The planned fares of the line will also go far beyond the possibilities of South Africa's poor majority."

Besides, they pointed out that the project will consume a big chunk of available national and provincial transport funds, which should be used to improve commuter transport problems. Considering that the existing railway system that serves the majority of the population is severely under-funded, and that largescale and violent public unrest - caused by inadequate and old public rail transport systems - has manifested in the province, the Gautrain project was a slap in the face of the poor.

This is really quite sad. But, unfortunately, high speed rail has a sex appeal, and impresses a certain grade of folks:

Glitz, Glamour and the Gautrain: Mega-Projects as Political Symbols

[Only the abstract is free] Gautrain, South Africa's first high-speed metropolitan transport network, is being developed at a cost of nearly R25 billion. It is being primarily justified on the basis of its close association with South Africa's hosting of the 2010 World Cup. However, the sheer scale of the costs involved, set against the larger and more pressing national transport shortages, invariably prompts questions about the rationale behind the construction of the Gautrain. Focusing on rational, cost-benefit considerations, and special interest groups on the one hand, and political symbolism on the other, the article concludes that political symbolism appears to be a major explanation for the construction of the Gautrain.

And, in addition to the criticisms from the great majority of South Africans, who are poor, there is the apparent likelihood that even the wealthy won't use the system much. (However, there are plans to jack up the toll road charges -- see GAUTRAIN - PREPARE TO PAY FOR IT -- to force fat cats to use Gautrain. What those toll road charges will do to the non-wealthy?) The quote below also reprises the the HST for fat cats theme:

Red Cards for Fifa, Coke and South African Elites

New luxury transport infrastructure, for example, gambles on shifting rich people's behaviour away from private cars. But the $3 billion Gautrain rapid rail costs riders five times more than previously advertised and probably won't dislodge Johannesburg-Pretoria commuters, thanks to traffic jams and parking shortages at the new stations.

As labour leader Zwelinzima Vavi, put it, Gautrain "does nothing for those who really suffer from transport problems - above all, commuters from places like Soweto and Diepsloot. Instead, it takes away resources that could improve the lives of millions of commuters."

In a wealthy country, such a boondoggle would not be nearly so tragic. But South Africa is relatively poor, leads the race to the bottom in wealth maldistribution, and has exceptionally serious commuter rail funding and maintenance problems:

SA'S PASSENGER RAIL TIME-BOMB

South Africa is sitting on a passenger rail time-bomb, write Clayton Barnes and Noelene Barbeau in the Daily News (published in Durban):

"A third of the country's trains will be out of service by 2013. And if the government fails to secure new rolling stock by the end of the year, Metrorail's already stretched service will be under further pressure, resulting in more overcrowding on trains and longer delays. More than 280,000 passengers in KwaZulu-Natal make use of Metrorail's trains daily.

"The country's urban railway system will have totally collapsed within 10 years without the necessary recapitalisation. . . .

"He admitted that the country's commuter rail system was headed for disaster if the government did not buy new trains soon. `It doesn't make sense to keep refurbishing. It costs nearly as much as buying a new coach,' said Montana. "The current coaches are not built for the modern economy, and the levels of reliability are too low."

"But the Transport Department says it simply does not have the budget. Transport minister S'bu Ndebele acknowledged the need for more passenger trains, but said that there were other areas, such as roads, which also required huge investment.

Should we blame Gautrain at least in part on FIFA, that private monopoly and the caviar demands it places on potential host countries? Well yeah, partly, but many should share the blame. Any who romanticize HST instead of looking at it empirically should.

Display:
LOL, you even made it a diary, so I repost.

Though its speeds are higher than other trains in South Africa, Gautrain is not a high-speed train, not by any international standards. (And it is especially no high-speed train system, with a single line...) It is a limited-stop suburban service, just 80 km long with ten stations across the Johannesburg-Pretoria conurbanism, and a standard top speed of 160 km/h; only with separate grade from all-stoppers, in that it is analogous to say metro and RER in Paris. Indeed Gautrain uses trains derived from Bombardier's Electrostar, the most widespread family of regional EMUs for Britain.

Now, Gautrain could be discussed as an example of bad mismanagement (delays and cost explosion); and one could thematise the class aspect (the new ANC elite is sadly no better on this than whites) in the fact that ticket prices and the routing indicates that it was indended for the upper classes and tourists (though there is at least ticket integration with normal suburban trains). But, don't fall from your role, you are supposed to be anti-long-distance-rail, not anti-passenger-rail like US Republicans.

Keep digging.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 03:11:56 AM EST
One of the big problems for public transport in South Africa is the minibus taxis. From what I can gather, the apartheid government deliberately neglected transport in the townships, so black-owned minibus taxis emerged to fill the gap. The taxi owners use violence against competitors and passengers, and to obstruct public transport improvements that threaten their monopoly. Johannesburg's new BRT system, Rea Vaya, has faced interference from taxi owners, and two Reya Vaya buses were shot at two days after the system opened. Now the city seems to be buying off taxi owners by giving them shares in Rea Vaya in return for handing in minibuses. Clearly no-one is going to spend billions of rand/pounds/dollars on new rail lines for the townships if the taxis mafia are going to smash them up or shoot them up until they get paid off.
by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 09:20:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds like lame excuse making.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 11:33:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not an excuse for Gautrain, it's a reason why public transport in general is so poorly developed. Your criticisms of Gautrain are perfectly valid, except that it is not high speed rail (even though the trains have aerodynamic noses stuck on to look cool).
by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 11:50:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is always described as a "high-speed" train service, and never described as a "limited-stop suburban service." But, keep to semantics and your dictionary, DoDo, unimportant stuff.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 11:32:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
160 km/h or 300 km/h, and stops every 8 km or every 100 km, thqat's not semantics... but keep digging.

You know, the first thing would be to recognise that you don't know what you talk about. Then it would be possible for you to learn.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 02:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Search: "About 45,900 results."

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 04:53:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you keep ignoring the actual speed and distance and keep on keeping on about semantics. Not that it helps you. I already posted Gautrain's own description of itself as "rapid rail", and indeed "rapid rail" & Gautrain gives About 150,000 results.

Meanwhile, the hits for "high speed" & Gautrain include articles at Gauntrain's own site on actual high-speed lines, including one they themselves name as what shall be Africa's first...

AFRICA'S FIRST HIGH-SPEED LINE TO BE BUILT IN MOROCCO | Gautrain's Newsroom

The North African Kingdom of Morocco is set for radical additions to its rail infrastructure, following contract announcements in 2007. The country is to create its first modern light rail system and is to become the location of the continent's first high-speed line.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 05:59:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's clear: (1) I don't care what the 'official' definition is or whether Gautrain fits it, (2) you care a great deal about the 'official' definition and whether Gautrain fits it.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 07:20:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You brought up Gautrain first when I mentioned your past anti-HSR crusade on ET...

DoDo:

And not the first time you keep denying reality like this -- there was your row on immigration, on supposedly businessmen-only high-speed trains...

fairleft:

Well, South Africa's high-speed train system is a white elephant almost on a par with their expensive new stadiums.

Keep digging.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:59:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you insist I'm on an "anti-HST crusade"? Pretty sure this is my first diary on the topic. I must be a lazy crusader?

By the way, on the actual meat of the diary: have you ever posted on the Gautrain? Don't you think it might have been interesting to actually discuss its ups and downs rather than kibitz about whether a train system (max speed 160 km/hr) can officially (not) or unofficially (seems reasonable) be called "high speed"?

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 08:06:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is your first diary on the subject, but back in February you got into a massive argument with DoDo in the comments on his diary about high speed rail in China.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 08:46:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So one argument back in February and a diary in June make me a crusader against HST? It would be nice if at least you would admit that it's false to say I'm on a crusade against HST. I don't expect it, I expect instead a change of subject, but it would be nice.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 08:04:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
have you ever posted on the Gautrain?

Your memory is real short...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:31:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never posted on the Gautrain before." The logical next step would be, "Thanks, fairleft, for posting an informative diary on the Gautrain boondoggle." But, instead, you got decided your contribution would be technicalities and semantics.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 07:53:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought 'posted' would be understood as meaning 'posted a diary'.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 09:07:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for high-speed (emphasis added): quick, speedy, rapid, swift, express, hasty, prompt, immediate.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 12:52:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know this is a wasted question, but why do you want to question industry definitions, that are clear and precise and do the job of making communication EASY? One then can then reliably discuss the rest, once those definition have been agreed. And they HAVE been agreed as industry standards, just not by you.

Your insistance that "real life" definitions of words should take precedent over common professional usage does not further the discussion one iota, it merely obfuscate it.

When you discuss clouds with friends - for example - do you say: "Quote fairleft" Oh, that Cumulus cloud looks like a rabid, not a sheep, I will call them rabid clouds, why doesn't everybody call them rabid clouds, they look like rabids, don't they? So henceforth they should always be called rabid clouds, not sheep clouds or cumulus. Change your scientific literature, now. Basta!" "End silly and not real Quote"

I agree that sometimes the questioning of definitions is a very, very worthwhile undertaking. But sometimes one (in this case you) have to accept that the overwhelming understanding is what should form the basis of a discussion. And if only to concentrate on the real matter, that one wants to discuss, rather than getting sidetracked and drained away from actual useful discussions.

Which I believe is the shared attempt in a greater understanding of what makes the world more just, free, equal, social, green, understanding, peaceful, harmonious, fair and fun.

Anyhoo.

by PeWi on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:00:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
was I rabid, when I wrote this? Maybe...

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

by PeWi on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:03:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not insisting. The Gautrain goes fast (according to DoDo the top speed is 160 km/hr) and is a train.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 08:03:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No it doesn't. 160 km/h top speed is not "fast" for a train. It's the top speed you'd expect from a high-end exurb to city centre connection, or a mediocre intercity connection (Danish IC3/IR4 trains used in both those roles have a top speed of 180 km/h). And a route with stops every 8 km is not a high-speed route. It's the sort of route you'd expect on a exurb to city centre connection.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 09:21:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed pretty much every new electric regional train is for 140 or 160 km/h -- including the 160 km/h Electrostar family, into which, as mentioned earlier, Gautrain's trains belong.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:02:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rated a '1' because of the assumption of bad faith.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 09:08:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

That's a misuse of the 1 rating. PeWi's comment is not trollish at all.

You might like to read the User Guide on Ratings.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 02:48:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chicago's 'L' is a "rapid transit" system. By your logic, it should be a (nasty businessmen-only white elephant) high-speed train, too...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 07:04:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think it's ever gotten up to 160 km/hr, closer to 16.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 08:02:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
55 mph is 89 km/h, which is closer to 160 km/h... not that it negates in any way the reductio ad absurdum of your rhetorical equation of rapid rail and high-speed rail.

While this may be wasted on you, it might be worth to emphasize to others that the chief feature of rapid transit is crossing dense urban areas grade-separated (as subways or elevateds); and rapidness is in comparison to streetcars (trams).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:24:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rated a '2' because of the gratuitous insult.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 09:09:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you actually believe all the words listed in a thesaurus under "synonyms" mean exactly the same?

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 03:43:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I invented quince toffee yesterday...  Was aiming for poached quinces, but left it a little long.
by njh on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 09:34:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I rated this comment a '1' because it is an accusation of bad faith.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 08:49:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

There is no good reason to use a troll rating on that comment. Read the User Guide on Ratings.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 03:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Look at the title: "Keep digging." An immediate accusation of bad faith.

And note the content: he is saying that he is proud to have baited me (he believes) through a previous comment into writing this diary. How can baiting people into writing diaries not be "disruptive of dialogue"? If you sense that someone has something wrong, why not inform them rather than bait them? In context this is one of the worst comments I've ever seen here.

"1 is used to rate a comment "trollish", i.e. disruptive of dialogue, or grossly insulting, or really inappropriate."

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:46:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is absurd.

It is not the fault of those supporting the Gautrain - which as DoDo notes is not true high speed rail - that SA has been weakening its other passenger rail services. Just as one train will not meet everyone's needs, one train is also not an impediment to providing other transit resources.

It is clear that SA has a need of more local rail services, within the Johannesburg area, in addition to the intercity or suburban commuter services such as the Gautrain. The goal here should be to support the construction of a true rail network with a range of services that meet many needs, instead of demanding a one-size-fits-all train.

You are assuming that there is a finite amount of money available and that we just have to live within those terms. I'm not familiar enough with SA to know just how accurate that statement is. I know that it does not at all hold true here in California or the rest of the USA.

It's also possible for SA to subsidize the cost of tickets to enable more people to ride, as SNCF did in the early 1980s when launching the TGV.

Finally, you overlook the chance that if the Gautrain is successful, it could spur demands from others in SA to build passenger rail services that are more affordable and serve more people. You insist this is an either/or proposition when it is anything but.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Jun 17th, 2010 at 01:39:38 PM EST
Although the diarist seems only interested to score one in a strange crusade against HSR (or is it really only HSR?) on mere semantic grounds, the Gautrain woes might be worth to discuss for other readers.

First, on the execution. Gautrain's costs ballooned to about €2.5 billion Euros (or even €3.75 billion if Cronin is to be believed), which seems too much for a developing country even considering the 7 km urban tunnel at one end and long bridges. Originally planned for 2006, the delay (which is also a major cause of extra costs via financial costs) is five years. Five years because it will be complete only next year, presently it is little more than a bad airport link (ending in the suburbs). (For that reason, as yet one can't say much about whether the project will meet ridership estimates and be a financial success in the end or not.)

Readers of my diaries might not be surprised if I put much of the blame on the type of financial constuction: this is yet another PPP project. As one can expect when private investors are invited on the condition that risks are socialised, cost estimates exploded while the tender was prepared, then the tender winner that had difficulty collecting the funds...

Integration into the public transport system. There is ticket integration between Gautrain and suburban trains operator Metrorail, but integration with luxury bus services seems emphasized more. When the project started, a light rail feeder line was discussed, but then dropped to save costs. Still, the urban tunnel section might fulfil the higher-level distributor role in downdown mass transit.

The class aspect. This is less clear from ticket prices than one would expect, due to said integration with Metrortail, and there is an interchange between the lines near the airport. However, the routing speaks much more clearly: the line bypasses the townships.

Indeed in its Jo'burg transport policy, it seems that the new ANC elite is more interested in black elite promotion than raising up the entire society. The situation with suburban trains (partly covered by one of the blockquotes in the diary):

Railway Gazette: Ambitious plans will still need funding

Prasa has spent R7bn over three years upgrading 2000 vehicles ahead of the FIFA World Cup this month, but with the Metrorail fleet's average age close to 47 years Montana says `it doesn't make sense to keep refurbishing'. He believes the money would be better spent on new stock, noting that even after refurbishment, availability is poor. Deputy transport minister Jeremy Cronin accepts that the situation is `of grave concern', but says DoT `is working with Prasa and the Treasury' on a recapitalisation plan.

Prior to the World Cup upgrades, the one significant rolling stock investment in recent years was all-first-class upgraded trains to Soweto, so that the new black middle class can sit separate. Other than that, the government displayed the attitude of American city councils, giving money to shady businessmen proposing flashy but unrealistic plans:

SOWETO MONORAIL STILL AN OPTION | Railways Africa

The Soweto monorail project was never officially "canned", Wiseman Khuzwayo writes in Business Report. He quotes the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport saying it remains an option for consideration. Jack Bloom, a member of the Gauteng Legislature, queried why over R2 million was spent on the project, "months after it was canned by then Gauteng Finance MEC Paul Mashatile and Transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs. Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Bheki Nkosi responded that payments made to the Powerhouse Consortium, which was appointed as project manager, were for work done on a feasibility study of the proposed monorail.

Khuzwayo recalled: "The Gauteng Economic Development Agency announced in June 2007 that a R12 billion, 44km monorail would be constructed from Protea in Soweto to Bree Street in the Johannesburg city centre; and would be built, financed and operated by a little-known Malaysian consortium headed by businessman Jeyakumar Varathan.

"But basic calculations by transport experts showed the monorail, planned to carry 1.5 million commuters a day, could not possibly work. These showed that in order to meet this demand, the system would need 6,000 carriages to depart from Soweto in a three-hour period to move the expected passenger load.

The situation is no different in long distance rail. On one hand, there are dreams [from the same RG article as above]:

Minister of Transport Sbusiso Ndebele told parliament that a high speed line linking Johannesburg and Durban was being `seriously considered', raising the prospect that journey times for the 721 km could be cut from 12 h to 3 h. Despite the formidable engineering challenges of pushing a new line through the Drakensberg mountains, the minister hopes the cabinet will approve a full feasibility study.

High speed lines from Johannesburg to both Durban and Cape Town feature in the national transport master plan unveiled by the Department of Transport on May 4. Drawn up at a cost of R64m, this is intended `to develop and establish a multimodal transport system' that would meet the country's needs up to 2050.

...and there is reality in hard cash:

Long-term vision is one thing, but it is short-term funding that concerns Lucky Montana at the moment. As CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, he is facing a critical shortfall in operating subsidy which may trigger the end of inter-city services by 2012.

(US anti-Amtrak propagandists would celebrate, I'm sure.)

:: :: :: :: ::

Gautrain's initial ridership estimate (once complete at both ends) is 100,000 passengers a day. I doubt that that mark will be achieved in 2011/2, and suspect that the estimates have something to do with the rather short PPP franchise length of 20 years, but we'll see.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 06:38:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and lacking any evidence:

Although the diarist seems only interested to score one in a strange crusade against HSR . . .

As for the rest of your post, thanks for your support for my perspective.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 01:42:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Evidence is right there in your previous comment...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 02:13:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My previous comment on this thread:

The high-speed rail project is the epitomy of

class apartheid, imho. Considerable expert opinion and other evidence to that effect has been provided in the diary. It's absurd to say the contention is 'absurd'.

On one of your points, you seem to have missed that the diary's experts point out that spending a huge amount of money on one form of suburban/regional transport (priced for the upper-middle class and rich) while severely underfunding the rest of rail/bus transport (which is what everyone else can afford and might use) indicates a kind of class apartheid approach to funding transportation. And the fact is that the HST project is very expensive and likely very inefficient compared to other transportation funding options.

Now where is the opposition to all HST projects -- i.e., "Although the diarist seems only interested to score one in a strange crusade against HSR (or is it really only HSR?) on mere semantic grounds" -- in there? Or are you referring to a different "in your previous comment"?

You might benefit by spending some time at Wikipedia, and rigorously following one of its fundamental rules: 'assume good faith'. I say this in good faith and IMHO, that something has wrongly set you off on the wrong track about me.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 02:25:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe he would then benefit from knowing more about your background. The background I know about DoDo is, that he is a railway professional. He does and knows these things for a living.

Are you?

Thus, it would almost be an insult to have to refer to wiki...

Now if I remember correctly (not forgetting, that I am not the most active member on these pages anymore) this "banter" about highspeed has been going on for a while. So I think it is up to you to accept that you sent us down this track on previous occasions, going back many months. At some point over a period of time opinions are formed.

You might not accept industry wide definitions about highspeed classification as universal, but maybe you should accept, that they are industry definitions.

Anyhoo. Back to football

by PeWi on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 04:42:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't send anyone down any track that justifies assuming I'm writing in bad faith. (But I'm assuming that being opposed to white elephant HST projects doesn't qualify as bad faith.)

It's unfortunate that you've decided to wholly take DoDo the Assumer of Bad Faith's side in this tiny dispute. It won't help him work himself out of a bad habit that kills free and friendly exchange of ideas.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 04:50:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You might benefit by spending some time at Wikipedia, and rigorously following one of its fundamental rules: 'assume good faith'.

Wikipedia: Assume Good Faith

Be careful about citing this principle too aggressively. Just as one can incorrectly judge that another is acting in bad faith, so too can one mistakenly conclude that bad faith is being assumed, and exhortations to "Assume Good Faith" can themselves reflect negative assumptions about others if a perceived assumption of bad faith was not clear-cut.


By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 05:09:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's unfortunate (for DoDo) but in keeping with your ways that you've taken the side of DoDo the Assumer of Bad Faith.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 07:22:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's unfortunate for you that you're clueless even when quoting the wikipedia meta. If I'm taking sides, it's against the troll.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 01:57:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The following remark by me generated Migeru's apparent belief (and so he quoted that section from Wikipedia) that I'm acting in bad faith in asking Dodo to assume good faith:

You might benefit by spending some time at Wikipedia, and rigorously following one of its fundamental rules: 'assume good faith'. I say this in good faith and IMHO, that something has wrongly set you off on the wrong track about me.

Now he has decided to call me a troll because I criticized him for attacking me instead of joining me in urging Dodo (and everyone) to assume good faith. So, Bernard, I am rating Migeru's comment a '1'.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 08:45:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

You are sprinkling this thread with retaliatory troll ratings and warnings.

Read the User Guide on Ratings. And follow the link from there to Ed Team Tasks, where you'll read:

European Tribune - Ed Team Tasks

Ratings abuse

On ET, retaliatory troll ratings, issued without explanation or apparent reason other than disagreement, are considered ratings abuse. In cases of repeated ratings abuse, the ed team apply the following announced policy: if two or more editors agree and none disagrees,

  1. all ratings of the user will be wiped,
  2. the user's capacity to rate comments will be removed for one week,
  3. these actions will be announced in a moderation comment on ET and possibly also in private email,
  4. if after the one-week ban, the behaviour persists, the user's capacity to rate comments will be removed again, this time permanently.

This is a warning. Stop abusing ratings or the policy will be applied.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 03:21:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No I'm not. Open assumptions of bad faith and other abusive and disruptive behavior that violates eurotrib rules is being rated accurately by me. I note you cite no specific examples of rating abuse, and that tells me you likely don't have a case and are just siding with the bullies and harassers here.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:32:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

You don't get to tell the ed team what the rules are.

Your ratings have been wiped and your ability to rate is suspended for a week.

If, after that time, you continue to abuse the ratings system, you will lose ratings permission for good.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 26th, 2010 at 01:33:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did not tell the ed team what the rules are; I've instead been quoting the rules like crazy in explaining my '1' and '2' ratings.

I am asking the ed team to show what they think were my retaliatory ratings. Why isn't the ed team doing that? Since there have been many comments harassing and bullying me here (frankly, I think even the commenters would admit that that is what is taking place), in my humble opinion rating such comments accurately under the eurotrib guidelines is not content-based retaliation.


fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sat Jun 26th, 2010 at 02:51:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I actually believe you're clueless.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 03:38:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

This kind of comment will lead to generation of heat not light.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 03:49:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then rate the comment a '2'. You've rated three recent non-aggressive and non-disruptive comments by me here with 2s but then you don't do the obvious in the face of a clear-cut example? Eurotrib: "2 is a warning that is used for comments that are unnecessarily aggressive or disruptive in their tone."

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:58:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"2 is a warning that is used for comments that are unnecessarily aggressive or disruptive in their tone."

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:33:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I suspected, there is a lot of common ground between your assessment of the Gautrain and Dodo's (and, I think, many people here on ET).

You have dissenting views on HSR subjects and it's OK: many of us, as you noted will strongly criticize your arguments, but you're are definitely welcome to expose your own view, arguments and opinions, as long as you aim at the arguments, not the person.

We are always wary of falling into group-think or "cult-like" behavior, so we always enjoy a strong, even vigorous, debate (it's even better when there are charts :)), but, and I'm quoting the ET Editorial Guidelines here:

(as long as the proprieties of civility and ETiquette are observed)

Please, be aware this is a European centric blog and this is reflected in our perspective on, say, trains vs air transportation or mass transit vs automobiles, or our use of km/h, liters and Celsius degrees; also we are (mostly) not native English speakers as explained in the friendly ETiquette.

There is also one point I need to draw your attention to: it's the rating system.

Specifically: "1 is used to rate a comment "trollish", i.e. disruptive of dialogue, or grossly insulting, or really inappropriate. Such ratings should never be used to indicate that you disagree with the comment."

Also: "2 is a warning that is used for comments that are unnecessarily aggressive or disruptive in their tone."

The bottom line to these ratings is: "Such ratings should never be used to indicate that you disagree with the comment." (my emphasis)

It doesn't look to me like you are aware of these guidelines yet, so I would kindly invite you to take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the ET Editorial Guidelines, the ETiquette and the rating system.

As you noted, the debate can get real heated, real fast; this is why we have put together those rules.

What we are really interested in are the ideas not the personal conflicts. Hope you'll enjoy your stay.

by Bernard on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 04:31:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in these comments. The Gautrain is a controversial exurban rail system, an example in many people's opinion of 'class apartheid'. But there was virtually no discussion of the ups or downs of the Gautrain here. Instead and essentially, there was the joy of ganging up on me and comment after comment obsessing on semantics. Those who engaged in those games screwed up, diverted dialogue away from real issues, behaved like trolls, and should be rated as such.

Nonetheless, I'm the one who receives a "you're breaking the rules" comment from Bernard. Check yourself out.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 08:19:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please indicate any comments that you feel I have improperly rated '1' or '2'.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 09:12:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Still waiting, two days later, for you to indicate any comments that you feel I have inappropriately rated a '1' or a '2'. Enlightened, I will remove inappropriate ratings.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:36:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been quite busy at work this past week, so I haven't spent much time here and haven't read your reply until tonight. Sorry about that. Now as to your inquiry:

Montereyan:

This is absurd.
You replied:

fairleft:

I rated this comment a '2' because it is disruptive of dialogue to accuse a squarely mainstream position -- amply supported by evidence and expert testimony in the diary -- of being 'absurd'.

Sorry, but the 'absurd" adjective applies to your position and doesn't constitute an ad hominem attack whatsoever. Disagreeing with your position and even "accusing a squarely mainstream position" (heck, we do that all the time) is not "disruptive of dialogue".

DoDo:

While this may be wasted on you
You replied:
fairleft:
Rated a '2' because of the gratuitous insult.

So, stating that a position/opinion may be wasted on you is insulting you? Gratuitously on top of that?
Excuse me for having serious difficulties following you on that. Disagreeing with you is not the same as insulting you. Please, check the Editorial Guidelines:

European Tribune - ET Editorial Guidelines

Your personal dignity is sacrosanct - but your statements and opinions are anything but!

Then this:
PeWi:

Your insistance that "real life" definitions of words should take precedent over common professional usage does not further the discussion one iota, it merely obfuscate it.
fairleft:
Rated a '1' because of the assumption of bad faith.

Again, disagreeing with your opinion is not 'bad faith', it's disagreeing -- and it should be debated, argued, supported by evidence as much as possible, etc... not result into impugning other's motives.

I could add that Dodo's "keep digging" is disagreement with your argument, not personal attack, but that would be belaboring the point.

Why am I writing all the above?
Well, first of all, you asked me a question and I'm trying to provide the pointers you requested me. And no, I'm not trying to play some self-righteous arrogant condescending European prig: frankly I'm too old for that.
What I -- and everyone of us -- value in this space is the debate: high-level, fact-based, with high signal-to-noise ratio (apologies for the nerdy language) and as argumentative as it gets.

You have opinions that are differ from some of the "mainstream" on ET. You bring contradiction to the generally prevailing arguments so therefore your contribution is valued. Or it should be -- in practice, your behavior is ruining all that: arguments on behavior, personal attacks, gratuitous this or that, is diluting whatever interesting things you have to say. Pity.

You are -like everyone else- entitled to your own opinions. But we (I'm sure I'm not alone) ask you to check the attitude.

You rating privileges have not been suspended for your opinions, but for your behavior. We have mechanisms to prevent people from disrupting the lively discussion that has been going on for the past five years and they are effectively used.

So, one last time: check your behavior, follow the ET rules (not the other way round) and keep arguing with us (and again, you're welcome to do so). But it you choose disruptive behavior it will be dealt with.

Don't like it? Tough.

by Bernard on Sat Jun 26th, 2010 at 05:16:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bernard,

While this may be wasted on you

Yes, this is an insult.

You stated:

So, stating that a position/opinion may be wasted on you is insulting you? Gratuitously on top of that? Excuse me for having serious difficulties following you on that. Disagreeing with you is not the same as insulting you.

You have spotted what I found to be a gratuitous insult, but insist on deciding that I rated that insult a '2' because I disagreed with something else in the comment. There's nothing hard to follow here: maybe I should not have found the phrase insulting because of the word 'may' in the sentence, maybe not. How would you feel if someone said the same words in the initial words of a comment to you? Insulted? Be honest.

Then, the relevant section of PeWi's comment, which you apparently missed though it was the first seven words of his/her comment:

I know this is a wasted question, . . .

Rated a '1' because of the assumption of bad faith.

How can you not agree that that is an assumption of bad faith, especially based on your analysis of the DoDo comment? But instead you misread what I was referring to and attacked me. Great.

And no, DoDo's "keep digging" assumes I am digging in a biased way for negative information about high speed rail. It is definitely an assumption of bad faith, and one DoDo engages in many times with no apparent fear of disapproval by the PTB here.

My behavior is not ruining anything. The bullying and assumptions of bad faith by several longtime users here, and apparent non-disapproval for those users' behavior by the admin team here is ruining the atmosphere.

It is happening again on my latest diary. Deliberate misinterpretation of what I'm referring to (even though it is a widespread and standard observation about Germany's increasing military interventionism (since the mid-1990s)). But user 'Crazy Horse' immediately decides to ridicule me and accuse me of "making shit up." This goes unpunished and un-commented on by the PTB here, except my '1' rating for his comment is canceled.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sun Jun 27th, 2010 at 12:37:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for taking the time to clarify your position.

Obviously, your opinion on the threshold between strong disagreement with you and insulting you is well established and you don't want to reconsider.

OK; your choice.

You have also been told that this is not the standard of behavior on this place.

So it's simple really: check your disruptive behavior or you'll be dealt with. Not a threat: a simple fact.

by Bernard on Sun Jun 27th, 2010 at 02:22:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see I left out one important aspect of Gautrain: its gauge.

In South Africa, the common track gauge is the 1067 mm colonial railway gauge first used there, the Cape Gauge. But that limits both loading gauge (cross section) and top speed. Gautrain however uses 1435 mm standard gauge, thus it can not only go faster, but can have a higher capacity. (Then again, using single-deck Electrostars with their narrow British loading gauge, that possibility of capacity increase is not used much at present.)

From this it also follows that it would make sense to develop Gautrain into a real parallel network, by adding more lines from Jo'burg resp. Pretoria into the townships. (The urban tunnel, being already built, could function as a trunk line, so these lines would be less cost-intensive.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 19th, 2010 at 06:12:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, loading gauge and top speed are circumscribed by colonial gauge, but . . . "The Metrorail system consists of 471 stations, 2,228 kilometres (1,384 mi) of track, and carries an average of 1.7 million passengers per weekday."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrorail_(South_Africa)

Before jumping onboard the Gautrain express, as you seem to be doing, there is a cost-benefit analysis to be made that you are not making. In a South Africa with limited resources, perhaps for now the existing and vast network should be adequately funded and repaired, and perhaps the post-colonial gauge future should wait. And this is an urgent matter; don't forget the passenger rail time bomb, already cited in my essay:

http://www.railwaysafrica.com/2010/05/sas-passenger-rail-time-bomb/

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 08:30:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you develop one single line into a parallel network, it will release capacity on the existing network. (BTW, Metrorail controls the urban rail systems of multiple agglomerations not just Jo'burg-Pretoria.) If you just spend on maintaining the existing network, there will be no significant capacity increase, and trains will remain overcrowded. The sensible policy would be to spend on both (upgrading the existing and building a new network). At present, neither happens.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 27th, 2010 at 02:01:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
class apartheid, imho. Considerable expert opinion and other evidence to that effect has been provided in the diary. It's absurd to say the contention is 'absurd'.

On one of your points, you seem to have missed that the diary's experts point out that spending a huge amount of money on one form of suburban/regional transport (priced for the upper-middle class and rich) while severely underfunding the rest of rail/bus transport (which is what everyone else can afford and might use) indicates a kind of class apartheid approach to funding transportation. And the fact is that the HST project is very expensive and likely very inefficient compared to other transportation funding options.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 01:19:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not the fault of those supporting the Gautrain - which as DoDo notes is not true high speed rail - that SA has been weakening its other passenger rail services. Just as one train will not meet everyone's needs, one train is also not an impediment to providing other transit resources.

While spending several billion dollars of an in the real world limited budget on one new project, the government spends virtually nothing on the other.

It is clear that SA has a need of more local rail services, within the Johannesburg area, in addition to the intercity or suburban commuter services such as the Gautrain. The goal here should be to support the construction of a true rail network with a range of services that meet many needs, instead of demanding a one-size-fits-all train.

The fact is that the Gautrain is exceptionally expensive to build compared to building on and maintaining the current system. In less densely populated countries like South Africa, I don't think there is any point efficiency-wise in building high-speed or 'high-speed' interurban train networks, unless those urban areas are very close together. So, in fact, one size may be just right for South Africa.

You are assuming that there is a finite amount of money available and that we just have to live within those terms. I'm not familiar enough with SA to know just how accurate that statement is. I know that it does not at all hold true here in California or the rest of the USA.

Yes, I'm sort of assuming there's a finite amount of money available. But, I don't think that's absurd.

It's also possible for SA to subsidize the cost of tickets to enable more people to ride, as SNCF did in the early 1980s when launching the TGV.

I think there are more efficient way to spend a limited transportation budget, as indicated in the diary.

Finally, you overlook the chance that if the Gautrain is successful, it could spur demands from others in SA to build passenger rail services that are more affordable and serve more people. You insist this is an either/or proposition when it is anything but.

I haven't insisted, and such possibilities exist, but they are unlikely, based on the evidence provided and referred to in the diary (and in DoDo's comment), which suggests that Gautrain makes little sense except as a 'national prestige' vanity project. Among the more likely possibities than the one you propose: it is a failure; bureaucratic inertia and political reputation staked to the current project will push more of the line to be built (and more of SA's presumably limited funds used very inefficiently compared to readily doable alternatives), even when Gautrain is not a success. In any case, why start with the very expensive prestige service for the well to do; why not start with fixing and expanding the existing train transportation network used by the working people of the region, which is in crying need of massively increased funding? Is the charge of class apartheid absurd?

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Fri Jun 18th, 2010 at 05:11:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In less densely populated countries like South Africa, I don't think there is any point efficiency-wise in building high-speed or 'high-speed' interurban train networks, unless those urban areas are very close together.

How close is "very close together"? Would the distance between New York and Washington DC, for instance, count as near or far?
by Gag Halfrunt on Sun Jun 20th, 2010 at 06:52:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And is the Jo'burg-Pretoria conurbanism not dense enough and close together enough?... I overlooked this comment, but I see it contains even more digging.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 20th, 2010 at 07:08:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rated a '2' because it includes an assumption of bad faith.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 09:13:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your only response to a more or less complete takedown of Montereyan's comment is to ask 'how close is close'?


fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 09:15:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't responding to your entire argument, I was asking for clarification of what you mean by "very close together". Europeans and Americans have different understandings of distance, and to me "very close together" would mean something like the distance between San Francisco and Oakland, for example - close enough to be linked by local transit. Applying that standard, you seem to be saying that high speed lines should only be built between cities too close together to need them.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sat Jun 26th, 2010 at 05:55:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I rated this comment a '2' because it is disruptive of dialogue to accuse a squarely mainstream position -- amply supported by evidence and expert testimony in the diary -- of being 'absurd'.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Jun 24th, 2010 at 08:50:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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