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Harber, Jesse (2023) The statecraft of large transport projects: Bus Rapid Transit in Johannesburg. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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In 2006, the nascent City of Johannesburg undertook the most ambitious infrastructure project in South African local government history. The Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system was to be not just a new way to move people around the city, but a wholesale attempt to restructure the spatial, economic, and social form of Johannesburg. With this institutionally unprecedented project, this thesis undertakes to make sense of the relationship between large state transport projects and the form and nature of the state. The thesis uses the concept of urban statecraft (Cirolia and Harber, 2021; see also Pike et al., 2019) to examine the state as an object of policy in addition to, and at times taking precedence over, its role as the subject undertaking policy (or the vehicle through which actors undertake policy). It shows, through an intensive case study drawing on previously unavailable archival material, that the planning and implementation of the Rea Vaya BRT project required both an internal restructuring of the state in order to deliver it, and a restructuring of the outside edge of the state where it interfaced with incumbent parastatal transport operators. Furthermore it argues that failing to more deliberately and proactively restructure the state left the project unable to deliver on either its short-term or long-term promises. Doing so it develops the concept of “institutional success”. The thesis concludes by examining some of the implications of this analysis in terms of urban statecraft. These include academic implications, such as the importance of closer study of the working mechanics of the state and the projects the state undertakes, and policy implications, with relevance to the better design of major infrastructure projects.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Matteo Rizzo and Christopher Cramer
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2023 14:10
Funders: Other

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