It has been proven globally that a good, formal public transport system leads to improved economic activity and productivity of citizens.  Specifically in South America where public transport systems in cities such as Curitiba, Brazil, Bogota and Columbia have set the tone in how to effectively improve a nation’s socio-economic; energy and environmental challenges.

GIBB Transport Sector Unit Manager, Tobie Pretorius, described Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) as well as the MyCiti BRT System in Cape Town, as working examples of what can be achieved in South Africa.  GIBB has been heavily involved in both of projects.

BRT is aimed at providing better public transport, reducing congestion on public roads, improving the environment and creating jobs.

Buses run along dedicated routes to ensure speed of service, while the enclosed stations are designed to be spacious and welcoming.

“Prioritising the public transport sector by making it safe and desirable to all South African citizens will be the ‘game changer’ for South Africa,” Pretorius said.

Pretorius is now working on the initial phases of the Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS), in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), Port Elizabeth, which has been ongoing since 2006.

The proposed IPTS coverage of the city is based on traffic modelling prepared for the PTP (Public Transport Plan). The main data input used for the modelling came from a household interview travel survey conducted by the municipality in 2004. This travel survey estimated that there are 1.4 million person trips per day in the NMBM with a modal split of 33% walking, 26% public transport and 41% private transport,” he said.

The first phases of the IPTS system will focus on, and cater for, the person trips with the highest likelihood of becoming passenger trips in the proposed IPTS. 

Previously-disadvantaged areas in the Metro are being served first, as the majority of pedestrian trips are within these areas and the existing public transport trips consists mainly of captive minibus taxi and bus users. People from these areas are deemed to be more likely to start using the new system. 

The IPTS is expected to increase the economic vitality of the people in the NMBM, and specifically those from previously-disadvantaged areas.

“Another economic benefit to the city is that road infrastructure expansion can be reduced due to the fact that public transport should influence a reduction in / or stabilisation of private vehicle ownership growth,” Pretorius revealed.

The IPTS will have significant environmental benefits, once it is in full operation. Due to the reduction in certain vehicle types it is predicted that there will be a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a reduction in energy consumption and a reduction in noise pollution. 

Importantly, the IPTS is expected to foster a sense of community and will encourage a healthier lifestyle as has occurred in many international cities where BRT systems have been introduced.

“The city will become truly accessible to all its citizens due to the fact that the system will be 100% universally accessible. The system will be completely secure which will encourage more people to use the IPTS,” he added.

The draft Operational Plan proposes the roll out of the IPTS according to a phased approach with contract areas in five regions within the NMBM, namely: Motherwell; New Brighton; Cleary Park; Western Suburbs and Uitenhage.

Pretorius stressed that once we get public service delivery right, and public transport being no exception, ‘then we can say that South Africa has truly arrived’.

“At GIBB, our ethos is People; Expertise and Excellence – so changing lives is a priority. To this end, we are committed to the state’s concerted effort in developing South Africa’s infrastructure. This is an exciting time for engineering and we are proud to be associated with these projects,” he said.



News Television Channel  ANN7 recently interviewed GIBB’s Human Resource Executive, Philip Barnard with respect to the skills shortage that the industry is grappling with.

According to the latest Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) results, South Africa only has a total of 15 000 engineers, and has one engineer that services approximately 2 666 people - whereas internationally one engineer services 40 people.

While these results show the shortage of qualified engineers in South Africa, there is also a diminishing number of draughtsmen and artisans, both of which are specialist skills in their own right.

Barnard cited historical imbalances and an exodus of engineers from South Africa to other countries in pursuit of ‘better money’, as some of the reasons for the conundrum.

“It is difficult to find engineers with more than eight years’ experience, because many have left the country and others turned to different industries, like the financial sector for more attractive packages,” he said.

He also explained that learners are traditionally intimidated by Math and Science which are crucial for a career choice in engineering.

In a determined resolve to address the issue, GIBB in association with CESA’s Young Professional's Forum (YPF) has implemented various CSI initiatives that include Job Shadow Day; Career Guidance by GIBB professionals and bursaries.

A recent visit to Hedley High and Preparatory School, Midvaal in Gauteng by GIBB Civil Engineer, Tafadzwa Mukwena, was well received by the senior learners  many of whom are at the crossroads of their academic lives.

Learners were interested in the prerequisites required for pursuing a career in engineering and many of them showed a great appreciation for the industry.

For Mukwena the visit to Hedley High was an opportunity to spread the word about a career in the infrastructure sector and how it contributes to shaping society.

“What really stood out for me is how the young group were really drawn to the notion of being able to actively improve lives through doing your day-to-day work well. There was a mix of curiosity, anxiety and fascination in the way the learners approached our discussion on a possible career choice,” he said.

Interacting with the learners, for Mukwena was also an indication  that there is a lot more we should be doing to help the youth in handling what is in reality is the first major life choice they will ever make.

“Hopefully we will see a number of them working here at GIBB in a few years’ time,” he added.



Do engineers have the key to solve real world problems and exalt South Africa from its energy crisis?

The power and energy debate in South Africa continues to draw attention from world-wide players and is sparking contest between industries seeking solutions to the dire situation. As previously established, there is no one size fits all universal solution to South Africa’s energy deficiency challenge as each country has their own unique systems and geographical concerns. South Africa needs to find its own solution which inevitably, is a balance between sources of supply and available technologies in which skilled engineers have a big part to play.            

Paul Fitzsimons, energy expert and the Power and Energy General Manager at leading South African black owned engineering consulting firm GIBB, believes that we need to look upon our past to determine our future. “The current energy challenge is primarily a management issue, we only see the symptoms of the problems but not necessarily the root causes. There are many directions in which apportion reasons why we are faced with an energy crisis. From failure to implement policies in prior decades which prevented private capital ownership on the energy grid, to the lack of structural reform; all which contributed to the state of the energy resources today,” states Fitzsimons. 

Short-term energy solutions seem to be prioritised over long-term sustainability.  At the annual state-of-the-nation speech earlier this year, President Zuma confirmed that the government has plans in place to resolve the energy crisis. The potential plan involves a focus on locally-sourced gas power and managing the electricity demand with improved maintenance by Eskom.

“Our current dilemma cannot be singularly blamed on one event or mismanagement of one area only. Ring fencing and addressing each of the issues through accountability and multifactor management should be our first priority. Secondary, is employing engineering strategies,” he continues.

In integrated and balanced resource plan is the proposed mechanism of regulating the future energy mix in the country. This plan however, needs to be timeous, accessible and up-to-date. “One would assume, gas would take a bigger role and solar PV on roofs would be a driver of distributed energy. Renewable energy is great source, however we do need to consider all the implications of rolling out a large scale project. When we look to Germany, we need to take heed of any potential unintended consequences of all our energy policy decisions,” shares Fitzsimons.

“Considering the time taken to build traditional base coal and nuclear load power stations, possible short-term options include renting gas ships which work similarly to  gas turbines and serves as a portable energy source for those regions in critical need. This is a slightly more expensive option than gas or hydro energy alternatives but still a viable and accessible one which will get gas into the energy mixture and can stimulate a longer term initiative,” informs Fitzsimons.

The World Energy Council has defined energy sustainability based on three core dimensions, an energy trilemma, to assist countries in achieving power continuity. The trilemma framework interweaves three main links which are: energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability. Where one can’t exist successfully without the other, each with equal weighting all three components need to be met to ensure longevity and energy security.

“The trilemma serves as a great framework for which to establish a collaborative and conjoined effort, building a cohesive and constructive foundation to revamp South Africa’s energy resources. Ultimately, there is no one sure fire method that will be the answer to South Africa’s current energy deficiency. We need to explore the different energy source options available. We can then learn from and improve what does and does not work,” says Fitzsimons.

The bottom line, everything is possible and we need to try something. Not one energy source or initiative is going to be the  sustainable energy source for generations to come, however if we try all our well-planned solutions in an attempt to solve the current energy deficiency in South Africa, we will aid ourselves in getting much closer to the eventual system that will work and will provide a lasting power supply.

“We must accept that we have to make the hard choices today, take action on those plans to increase power supply resourcing and not be too afraid of the repercussions, instead having tangible plans in place to correct them. Our decisions today will progressively impact our future generations. We need a way of approaching the problem, not a solution to the problem as such,” concludes Fitzsimons. 

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