Foreign Policy Blogs

The Gautrain

The GautrainThe Gautrain now has round-trip between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Joburg to OR Tambo half of the Gautrain route was completed in time for last year’s World Cup and today patrons stepped on board for the full trip between Gauteng’s two vital cities. The key, as I see it, is that the Gautrain really is simply the first stage in what Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele has promised is a plan to make rail travel central to South African infrastructure and transportation agenda.

The criticisms of the Gautrain are obvious: because of the places it serves and its cost it runs the risk of primarily benefitting the middle classes. But if it is simply a first step in a much more comprehensive system of high-speed rail, well, it could mark yet another example of South Africa’s promise. Thus the Gautrain is less important on its own than in how it fits into a larger whole. The biggest question may be the financial viability of the larger train vision given that completing the Gautrain and its route and everything associated with it cost a whopping R30 billion. To place that amount in context, it is nearly as much as the government spent on hosting the World Cup.



Derek Catsam

Derek Catsam is a Professor of history and Kathlyn Cosper Dunagan Professor in the Humanities at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He is also Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University. Derek writes about race and politics in the United States and Africa, sports, and terrorism. He is currently working on books on bus boycotts in the United States and South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s and on the 1981 South African Springbok rugby team's tour to the US. He is the author of three books, dozens of scholarly articles and reviews, and has published widely on current affairs in African, American, and European publications. He has lived, worked, and travelled extensively throughout southern Africa. He writes about politics, sports, travel, pop culture, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

Areas of Focus:
Africa; Zimbabwe; South Africa; Apartheid