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While ANC works on even more grandiose plans for national transport, basic services like railway transport fail the public

The ANC government excels at thinking up grandiose plans, but when it comes to carrying these plans through, the failure to do so is usually spectacular. An example of this is our country’s public transport system as taxis are increasingly being used as the means of transport for the masses while the railway services are grinding to a halt.

PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) is supposed to serve as the primary means of transport for the greatest part of the country’s population, but it is failing miserably and it has lost more than half of its users in less than ten years.

During this time, bus services have not expanded significantly and it is ironic that the private taxi industry had to come to the rescue to keep the country’s economic lifeblood flowing.

The Second Reading Debate on the National Land Transport Amendment Bill took place in Parliament today. The Bill is an amendment to the existing legislation with the aim of ensuring the comprehensive implementation of the stipulations of the Public Transport Strategy and Action Plan of 2007 as well as addressing emerging matters.

The amendments are technical in nature with the user in mind. The value of any legislation, however, lies in the execution thereof and in this case various defining factors will come into play.

Firstly, the construction of infrastructure to support projects like the Gautrain and the national bus transport service as well as meaningful coordination between the role players and respective levels of government.

Secondly, protecting transport service providers and passengers by means of proper regulation and policing. Too many people lose their lives on trains.

Thirdly, striking a balance between regulation on the one hand and the protection of the free market on the other so as to create more jobs.

Finally, ensuring the effective management of all means of transport by keeping it transparent and professional.

A lot needs to be done in this regard given PRASA’s decline and the great number of commuters that have given up on railway transport.

The lack of a framework to manage future technological developments must also be noted. Various large firms are experimenting with new forms of transport and the future might just catch us off guard.

For instance, Uber has made a lot of progress experimenting with drones that can transport people. Various vehicle manufacturers are also busy developing flying cars. Their implementation may still be far off in the future, but intelligent self-driving cars are a reality today. And it requires regulation sooner rather than later.

We might have to draft legislation on this sooner than we think. Robots are here to stay, and they are intelligent. We must make very sure that we use these developments wisely to benefit all.

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