About 12m Gauteng residents are paying more than R70m a month to keep the Gautrain on its tracks.
The province's treasury now looks set to give the transport department an additional R1.2bn cash injection to enable it to support its agencies until the end of March. The department will, from this amount, allocate R861m to Gautrain in what is called a "patronage fee".
On Tuesday (5 March), finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe is expected to announce this and other cash-injections for other departments when he tables the provincial budget.
The multimillion-rand allocation comes after Nkomfe first tabled a draft report on the Provincial Adjustment Appropriation Bill, enabling the provincial treasury to take money from the province's revenue account and streamline it to departmental expenditure budgets to address shortfalls.
Last year, Neil Campbell, the DA's provincial spokesman on transport, called for the Gautrain contract to be made public, adding that reports hinted at the time that taxpayers would pay R700m a year to subsidise its operational costs.
Yesterday (27 March), John Mashele, Gauteng treasury's deputy director-general for sustainable resource management, denied the R861m was a subsidy.
"Gautrain's allocation was reduced when Gauteng treasury tabled the main budget [last year]. This was because discussions on some aspects of their spending plans had not been finalised. This necessitated treasury to allocate what was reduced through the adjustment process," he said.
Mashele said when the R27bn Gautrain project was signed off by the Cabinet in 2006, a patronage fee to assist in covering "operating, maintenance and the private sector portion of the capital costs" was part of the deal.
The Gautrain, which started operating in June 2010, was billed as one of the most reliable modes of public transport in Gauteng. Despite this, questions were asked on whether the train would meet its target of 100,000 passenger trips a day.
Gautrain spokesman Barbara Jensen said on average the train recorded between 45,000 and 47,000 passenger trips every weekday, and a further 18,000 to 20,000 passenger trips on its buses.
"The system is in very early stages of operation and is in what is known as the 'ramp-up' period.
"It's simply too early to give any accurate estimates the number of people using the service," Jensen said.
Jensen said the Gautrain Management Company, under the leadership of chief executive Jack van der Merwe, was "exploring options" of expanding the project by adding stations at Samrand in Midrand and Modderfontein, east of Johannesburg.
Source: The Times
via I-Net Bridge