On 9 April 2015 another of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering’s flagship in-house Civil Talk events took place at SAICE House, this time to debate South Africa’s transportation systems.

The panel for this discussion included industry leaders and engineers well versed in transport management:

·       Sean O’Beirne [Director at SE Solutions (facilitator)]

·       Jack van der Merwe [CEO of Gautrain. He also sits on the Gauteng 25-year Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25) Steering Committee]

·       Suhail Rassool (Corporate Account Manager – Road & Rail, Bentley Systems)

·       Dr Bridget Ssamula (Senior Lecturer and Researcher in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Pretoria. She also sits on the ITMP25 Steering Committee as an Independent Expert)

The event kicked off with three commuters (a public transport user, a partially-sighted commuter and an upper-middle class commuter) describing their transport joys and woes. This set the scene for the panellists who would debate current transport infrastructure and future approaches to improve South Africa’s transport systems.

Each panellist then had five minutes to discuss integrated transport from their standpoint, whereafter vociferous discussions regarding points raised took place between panellists, and audience members.

Highlighting critical points from our past, a better understanding of the present state of  our integrated public transportation systems, and how to move forward with regard to safety, efficiency and affordability were conclusions arrived at. Although South Africa still has a long way to go in improving its transport systems and better integrating them, this civil talk got people thinking differently.

What did become apparent was that, in such a car-lover country, our approach to transport systems needs to change unless we want to drive our luxury cars at 10 km/h in the coming decade. The consensus of opinion was that we should endeavour to engage with all relevant stakeholders and transport custodians, including government, to bring about true integrated transport systems to better serve all commuters.



  1. In order to change the mindset 0f South African private car users to use public transport,I suggest the should be strict law enforcement.e.g.negligent taxi drivers cannot be held responsible for their actions because most of the taxis are owned by Politicians.Corruption in all Traffic Law Enforcement Entities.etc.

  2. Being based in Cape Town the summary of the discussions is far too short and general to be able to offer any meaningful comment. Were there any invitations issued to the Press and Television so that the thinking of the civil engineers and the transport planners can reach a wider and more general audience. For me we need to create a far greater awareness amongst the general public of what we do, how we do it and what the constraints are under which we operate. How do we differentiate between urban and long-distance transport? How do we make our views on issues such as E-tolling and its alternatives known? What can we do to improve the capacity of the public sector to deal with transport issues? Was the expenditure on Gautrain justified considering its limited catchment area?
    These are all issues that will very quickly bring public attention to the value that engineers can and do add to the economic environment.

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