Built in a Field of Dreams? Spatial Engineering and Political Symbolism of South Africa’s Rapid Rail Link Development, Gautrain

  • Ronnie Donaldson
  • Janis van der Westhuizen


Structural deficiencies in the apartheid city, resulting from segregation and low-density sprawl, created long-distance work travel patterns. It is today widely acknowledged that improved transport and subsequent land use planning play a crucial role in reshaping urban form. Probably the best case study to illustrate this policy in South Africa is the megaengineering project called the Gautrain rapid rail link. It aims to construct a state-of-the-art rapid rail connection between Johannesburg (Africa’s business capital) and Pretoria (the South African capital). The chapter argues that it is necessary to consider the spatial legacy of apartheid and the reorganization of urban spaces in a democratic society when planning for this rapid rail transport corridor. Six problematic issues around the thinking behind the Gautrain and the associated corridor city form are discussed. As, considerations of political symbolism seem to have played a decisive part in.


Environmental Impact Assessment Urban Form Global City Mixed Land South African City 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of StellenboschStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of StellenboschStellenboschSouth Africa

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