There will possibly never be a new purpose built metro system come into being. Even Gautrain is commuter rail. The only way I could possibly imagine a true heavy rail system to come into being is if our current commuter rail system is upgraded to heavy rail frequencies and standards.
Ie. Cape Town's Southern and Bellville Lines
It would require a complete overhaul of Prasa as well as increased density around the current stations to make it feasible
Heavy rail is a confusing term, as suburban rail can get very close to metro volumes and frequencies. Part of my job is to run transport models and cost-benefit analyses for African transport systems. The amount of density required to overcome the necessary affordability of fares means that metro systems aren't financially viable outside of the largest, most dense African cities (Lagos, Addis, etc.) and even then it's going to be heavily subsidised. The suburban rail network is perfect for SA's low urban densities. In the short- to medium-term, if PRASA concessioned out routes to private companies, handed planning control to the city/provincial transport authorities and the cities expanded the customer base by investing in walking/cycling networks radially from each station, we'd have a system that could compete with most heavy rail services in comparable countries. The politics around such measures, though, is a whole different story. It will happen eventually. So, in my opinion, metro services are unnecessary in SA for transport reasons, whether you want to argue that they are net-positive for property development/business reasons is still being debated (the Gautrain argument).
South Africa does have a congestion problem, but only during the peak commute times and only into the largest economic nodes. It means that those stuck in congestion are mostly upper-income individuals. The quality of rail service required to persuade upper-income commuters to give up their cars is very high, which is why the Gautrain looks very different to other rail services. So, reducing congestion through high-quality rail is not a cost-effective method. I, personally, think that congestion in SA will decrease in the next few years as more upper-income people work from home. More trains on the suburban rail services to improve the access of lower-income users should be the priority, and will have some effect on congestion as a secondary effect. The transport planning landscape is likely to look quite different post-Covid.
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