South African smart cities move forward — bullet train doesn’t

President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke of his vision of a smart city and bullet trains in South Africa during his State of the Nation address in June 2019.

While several updates regarding smart cities have been made publicly available, the Presidency has remained quiet on the subject of the bullet train.

“We should imagine a country where bullet trains pass through Johannesburg as they travel from here to Musina, and they stop in Buffalo City on their way from eThekwini back here,” Ramaphosa said.

“Has the time not arrived to build a new smart city founded on the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? I would like to invite South Africans to begin imagining this prospect,” he added.

MyBroadband reached out to the Presidency for an update on the progress of the bullet train, but it had not responded by the time of publication.

The Department of Transport seems to have been more focused on introducing a High-Speed Rail (HSR) network that will connect Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban.

BusinessTech reported in August 2021 that the government was in the midst of a feasibility study regarding the project.

The network will carry passengers and freight.

Cyril Ramaphosa
Cyril Ramaphosa

When Department of Transport director-general Alec Moemi initially presented the project to a Parliamentary portfolio committee in May 2020, he revealed that the department had set a five-year development target.

The HSR network should therefore be launched by 2025 at the earliest.

Ramaphosa made the bullet train announcement while talking about his vision for a South African smart city in the future.

“I dream of a South Africa where the first entirely new city built in the democratic era rises, with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories,” the president said.

“This is a dream we can all share and participate in building. We have not built a new city in 25 years of democracy.”

Plans for a mega smart city located in Lanseria were first started in 2007 and remained low-key until they were revealed in Ramaphosa’s 2020 state of the nation address.

The stated aim is to create the first post-apartheid city in South Africa based on best practices in urban sustainability and smart city principles.

The government has also designated a region for another smart city project on South Africa’s Wild Coast — between Margate and Port St Johns.

A conceptualisation of the Lanseria mega smart city’s town centre

The development zone, which will stretch for 120km, will be given special status under the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, Ramaphosa said in an address.

“The Eastern Seaboard project is aimed at connecting the villages, towns and cities of the Wild Coast Corridor — which comprises unique ecological zones and tourism routes — with provincial, national and continental economies through transportation infrastructure and information technology,” Ramaphosa said.

The coastal area between Port St Johns and Port Edward, close to Margate, currently has no significant towns or road infrastructure.

However, this could change as a result of the N2 Wild Coast Road Project, which is currently underway.

The smart city planned for the Wild Coast forms part of several new smart city projects by the government.

In his 2021 state of the nation address, Ramaphosa also said that several new post-apartheid cities were being conceptualised across South Africa.

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South African smart cities move forward — bullet train doesn’t