Completed in mid-2012, the Gautrain is South Africa’s answer to the metros of Europe and the subways of the US. As yet, the project was also the biggest transport public-private partnership in all of Africa, cementing Gauteng’s status as a rapidly evolving, progressive and world-class province.
Superficially, the 80km rapid transport system that links Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and O.R Tambo International was built to relieve traffic in the Johannesburg-Tshwane area by offering busy commuters an alternative to road travel. This objective has been achieved admirably, with an average of 52 400 passengers using the service each weekday since the implementation of e-tolls, but, the Gautrain’s purpose goes so much deeper (15km underground, to be exact) than merely lessening road congestion.
According to experts, mobility is critical to Gauteng’s future economic growth. In response to the increased connectivity the Gautrain provides, neighbourhoods surrounding its 10 stations are already developing into high-density, mixed-use areas, which, in turn, are expected to create other high-density developments, thus forcing the province’s cities to be conducive to public transport. The beauty of this is that it will increase upward economic mobility in the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni triangle.
Higher-density city areas will also allow Gautrain users to live, work and shop along one convenient route, assisting the local authorities and the Gauteng Province to contain urban sprawl. This means more efficient service delivery and the preservation of the province’s “green lungs”.
As the Bank that strives to drive sustainable, long-term growth in our home, Africa, it’s unsurprising that we were one of two joint arrangers of the Gautrain project when it all started construction back in 2006. Along with Rand Merchant Bank, we were also an underwriter and sole lender for R3.1 billion of commercial debt funding.
Speaking at a function in January 2007, then-Standard Bank CEO Jaco Maree (he stepped down in 2013) said that, while it was unusual for two rival banks to work together, the financial institutions combined skills and a bigger balance sheet to ensure that the project benefits the province and the country at large. At that time, Mr Meree’s words captured the ideals that the bank supports and are necessary to move us all forward: unity, collaboration, humility and generosity.