With globalisation causing more reliance on air commerce to trade goods and services, the speed and agility that aviation offers become key differentiators for firms and cities that want to stay competitive, says global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Aurecon environment and planning principal Dr Werner Heyns.
“The time and cost of connecting people, companies, goods and services are replacing space and distance as the primary metric that leads to development. In other words, ‘economies of speed’ become as important for competitiveness as economies of scale.”
With Aurecon being responsible for the development of the City of Ekurhuleni’s approved 30-year aerotropolis master plan that encompasses an area of more than 1 600 km2, Heyns mentions that the master plan sets out a detailed path for the City of Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis to become a multifaceted development that powers local economic development and job creation.
“The establishment of the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis around OR Tambo International Airport will ensure that South Africa also benefits from the global movement of goods and services,” Heyns adds.
Meanwhile, OR Tambo International Airport is positioned to be a hub that concentrates on land zoning, infrastructure and economic activity.
Heyns is confident that infrastructure investments and economic development in the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis will support the growing number of passengers at the airport as well as a myriad other economic activity in the region.
“The positive economic impacts range from enhanced mobility and connectivity options, which will result in reduced congestion and improved travel times, to spatial transformation and regeneration. This will align with our government’s agenda for job creation, social cohesion, inclusivity and creating a world-class mobility and smart city infrastructure,” he explains.
Heyns further adds that the aerotropolis needs superior accessibility and mobility options to enable passengers to access its economic benefits.
“By integrating all modes of transport at OR Tambo International Airport, it becomes the point at which major public transport modes and road infrastructure systems converge, where passengers will transfer from one mode of transport to another and function as the integrator of the public transport system.”
He says the mobility needs of the public and those employed at the airport will be supported as the airport becomes the hub that connects an in-house airport transport system to an expanding existing public transport network, making movement throughout the aerotropolis and the province virtually seamless.
Heyns concludes that identifying and investing in the appropriate mobility options in and around OR Tambo International Airport, combined with the development of the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis, will unlock and “catapult” economic development.