Speed Train vs Dual Carriageway: – Windhoek-Hosea Kutako International Airport
By John A. Saunderson, Principal Consultant: Transport and Logistics (Economics and Finance) at Amir Consulting Services.
We understand that transport is essential on critical corridors but over-investment on these corridors should be controlled. The Namibian Government has come up with an aggressive public infrastructure investment plan for the period 2015/16 to 2019/20 to develop Namibia into a logistics hub. Amongst these are the developments of new road infrastructure and commuter train transport.
Feasibility studies conducted in 2015 on commuter train transport from Rehoboth, Okahandja and the airport, to Windhoek, has found that only the Windhoek-Hosea Kutako International Airport project should be considered further for implementation.
In the meantime, the government has also started developing the dual carriageway between Windhoek and Hosea Kutako International Airport while the Windhoek-Okahandja road is still in the process of being upgraded to improve safety and capacity.
Thus, it is acceptable that a Windhoek-Okahandja speed train project is not feasible as most of the commuter traffic will remain on that road as a result of the better service levels provided.
The biggest concern is the Windhoek-Hosea Kutako International Airport project. I am convinced that here too, the road traffic will remain on the new dual carriageway as it will improve service levels on this route. In my opinion, I believe the rail passenger demand projections are grossly overestimated, and that one of these projects, when completed will become another white elephant, most probably the speed train.
I was working on the Windhoek-Rehoboth commuter train project on its governance and management structures but unfortunately not on the demand analysis and economic analysis. In this case, the consultant has underestimated the passenger demand projections, which rendered the project not feasible.
The communities just south of Windhoek have been cheering the project, and I am truly dumbfounded by the low demand projections. I think those are two of the current projects which should be revised in the areas of demand and its subsequent economic analysis.