Windhoek rail system far-fetched
Industry analysts and experts have given divergent views over the ambitious City of Windhoek transport master plan that includes the construction of a commuter rail system to the cost of N$1 529 925 000 billion.
While TransNamib Acting Chief Executive Officer Hippy Tjivikua believes the project has potential to deal with the prolonged transport problems in the City, independent Town Planner, Barry Watson, believes the City of Windhoek railway project is an overambitious one that will have structural implementation challenges and could prove costly for the City, which is still to find avenues to deal with recurrent shanty towns.
The proposed railway network is meant to cater for low-income bracket and also to interlink some suburbs in the city through railway transport.
City of Windhoek Public Relations officer, Lydia Amutenya, said that the city is currently busy with the pre-feasibility and design study which is at an advance stage and will be followed by the feasibility study.
“The study is looking into ways on how to make public transport reliable, efficient, affordable and attractive, be it buses or train.”
“However, the nitty-gritties of routes, costs will only be informed at a later stage once the process is concluded” she said.
Furthermore, Watson said integrating a train network for public transportation is far-fetched for Windhoek as the city lacks the human capacity to utilize such a service.
“It requires a lot of people to use that kind of transport system and Windhoek simply doesn’t have the population for it as of yet,” he said.
Watson said that it would take the city between 20 to 30 years to be able to run the transit sustainably.
He also said that construction of a metro means that the city would need to change a lot of its existing infrastructure, which would ultimately cost the city millions.
Despite the high costs, Watson also said that the Windhoek terrain is very demanding, thus, making the construction of a metro all that more challenging.
However, TransNamib acting Chief Executive Officer, Hippy Tjivikua, defended the project adding that it is realistic and it is about time that Namibia invests in a conducive mode of transportation to cater for the growing population.
“The population is growing and we need to adjust the transport methodology of public transport in order to de-congest the city” Tjivikua said.
He further rubbished claims that the current city infrastructure will not be able to accommodate a railway line, saying that there is adequate space for the plan to go forward.
“The city of Windhoek has competent town-planers who are capable of laying sound foundation to guide the constructors,” he said.
“The train route will not link all the different residential areas together but would provide a safe mode of transportation for those who commute long-distances to the city centre every day,” Tjivikua said.
He, however, could also not provide figures as to how much the project would cost, adding that it is the directive of the City of Windhoek and Ministry of Works and Transport.
Meanwhile, when contacted for comment, Minister of Works and Transport: Alpheus !Naruseb said that he is in the national assembly thus cannot comment.
The Sustainable Urban Transport Master Plan was proposed in 2012 and is an on-going project aiming at shaping the public transport system in Windhoek for the next 20 years.
According to information provided by CoW’s Public Relations department, the development of a public transport system will also include organisational measures and infrastructure improvements, ranging from placement, location and standards of bus stops and taxi ranks to dedicated bus lanes.
The Master Plan proposes solutions for specific situations at points of interest such as hospitals, the universities, the Government Park, Eros Airport and others, further giving directions on the integration of commuter traffic from the neighbouring cities Rehoboth and Okahandja and traffic to and from the Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Inclusively, taxis and minibus services are considered in an integrated urban transport system as these services shall provide complementary services to bus services, in particular in areas or times with insufficient demand for bus operation.
According to the Windhoek’s master plan for the rail transport, the railway option for commuter trains in Windhoek and the new development area of Brakwater would connect from industrial zones to CBD, central bus station, other bus lines to the new development of Brakwater and vice versa.
CoW, city master plan says because the railway passes the CBD, the planned new Central Bus station, the new development area of Brakwater (250 000 inhibitors estimated for 2032) and the two industrial and the two industrial zones of Windhoek, the conclusion is to use the rail corridor for public transport within the Windhoek agglomeration (Windhoek and Northern Corridor).
According to the Master Plan, the ROW allows a relative easy and economic extension of tracks, small inclines on the stretch, connection from industrial zones to CBD, central bus station, other bus lines to the new development area of Brakwater and vice versa, high riding comfort, higher average speeds, and bus lines cross the tracks approx. 10 times (each time with interchange).
Currently, taxis operate as part of the PT, which is a mix between international known radio taxi (call a taxi) and minibus service but with low occupancy vehicles (please refer also to chapter 2).
It is proposed to change the actual taxi system into two different parts one of which the classic radio taxi system (one can call a taxi or stop the taxi in the street and get door to door service e.g. with distance based fares measured by taximeters) and minibus system.
The plan says that a total of approximately 1400 passengers travelling between Rehoboth and Windhoek every day can be attracted for the commuter train at the end of the planning horizon.
“However, this figure is on the lower side, because census figures and projected and agreed upon official population growth rates appear to be underestimated and there could also some induced traffic be expected because, the attractiveness of affordable living places outside Windhoek will increase.
“While there is the existing right of way of the TransNamib, the opportunity for the use of infrastructure and land for the creation of a suburban Railway Network is obvious.
“A relatively economic option is the use of existing tracks with its existing speed limits during the day time, when the regular trains service from TransNamib is not using the relevant tracks (taking into account that actual rail services are only running during the night, the tracks are generally available for commuter rail operation with low frequency during the day).
“In this case, the upgrading and the minimized need of adoptions of the railway infrastructure is not extremely cost extensive” the master plan stipulated.
With a light railway option there would be a need to the acquisition of light diesel rail cars, implementation of a small control center with a simple management system, small preparations at the existing rail stations (Windhoek, Okahandja, Rehoboth), additional railway stops, switches of passing tracks and a public transport ticketing system.
by Hileni Heita