Minister of Transport refutes the intention by Premier Hellen Zille to develop a provincial legislation on rail transportation
The Minister of Transport, Mr Joe Maswanganyi, rebuts the intention by the Western Cape Premier, Ms Helen Zille, to develop provincial legislation that intends to hold the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) directly accountable to the Western Cape provincial government.
In terms of the Legal Succession to the South African Transport Service Act, CHAPTER V, Section 23. Main Object and Powers – the Department of Transport is the only legitimate transport authority to ensure that rail commuter services are provided within, to and from the Republic in the public interest.
Consequently, the intention by Premier Helen Zille is dishonest, opportunistic and absolute political manoeuvring that seeks to undermine the enormous efforts by the ANC government to change the rail landscape of South Africa, which has been characterised by decades of disinvestment by the apartheid regime.
In dealing with the legacy of disinvestment in rail as curtailed by amongst other, the De Villiers Report, which is one of the historic record which contributed to demise of rail infrastructure in South Africa, the ANC government has invested billions in resuscitating this important mass based mode of public transportation which is used by the majority of South Africans, blacks in particular.
Through PRASA, government began rolling out the Government’s Comprehensive Rail Programme over the next two decades.
This positions South Africa’s Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme as the catalyst for the transformation of our Metrorail services in particular and public transport in general.
“Our immediate and urgent task is to stabilize and provide a predictable Metrorail service within current capacity, measured by increased ridership, customer satisfaction and efficiency”, said Minister Maswanganyi.
“Critical as well is for us to ensure that we provide our demand driven services according to customer travel needs, coupled with predictability and reliable information dissemination”.
To this extend, government took delivery of 18 of the 20 new trains affectionately known as “The People’s Train” built in Brazil. The new trains are part of the first rollout of 600 train sets that will be implemented over the next 20 years. The remaining 580 trains will be built in South Africa at a local factory, located in Dunnottar Park, Ekurhuleni.
Attached to the local factory, government is facilitating the development of a supplier park which will support the manufacturing at the factory with local components.
The move will help achieve localisation and transformation goals including participation of Black Industrialists, SMMEs, Women, Youth and People living with disabilities.
“Our spending on Metrorail is expected to subsidise more than 484 million passenger trips per year in the period ahead,” confirmed Minister Maswanganyi.
The next deployment of the new trains will be at Saulsville, Mabopane, Naledi, Khayalitsha, Umlazi, and Kwa Mashu.
“As government we remain concerned about the acts of vandalism and theft of the signalling equipments in the major rail corridors of our country. In the Western Cape alone, incidences of vandalism and theft to signals have reached the cumulative proportion of one thousand one hundred and seventeen (1117) from January to August 2017.
This acts of anarchy and criminality undermines the government valuable investment to modernise rail transportation in South Africa,” said Minister Maswanganyi.
Equally important, the Department of Transport is in the process of developing the overarching National Rail Policy which will guide rail development in South Africa. This process is in line with the dictates of the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 of ensuring policy certainty and frameworks in critical sectors of the economy.
Minister Maswanganyi said that progressively and undoubtedly, the ANC government is reversing the apartheid special planning pattern on public transport in general.
In the rail sector, the apartheid planning pattern condensed the budget on new rail investment with consequences been witnessed in major rail corridors of South Africa, including the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.
Today, more than 50% of South Africa’s rolling stock and rail network is more than 50 years old. This impacts negatively on service delivery especially the movement of commuters and freight.
“This adversely affects the growth of our economy because workers’ productivity is hampered by late arrivals or non-appearance at workplaces due to technical or mechanical challenges to the rail services. Students miss exams and new job applicants miss interviews,” said Minister Maswanganyi.
Furthermore, Minister Maswanganyi said that the consequential obsolete rail infrastructure and rolling stock, inefficient operations, and under-utilisation of the network has resulted in the significant loss of market share to road, with rail only carrying 11% of the market share while road carries 89%.
“In view of all these progressive policy positions and advancements by the ANC government in changing the face of public transport in South Africa, we will continue to engage the MEC for Transport in the Western Cape to ensure that we collectively find resonance and cordial solutions towards challenges experienced by rail commuters in the Western Cape and elsewhere in South Africa,” said Minister Maswanganyi.
Minister Maswanganyi called upon South Africans to protect and safeguard the rail investment that intended to make the South African rail transport an integrated, smart, reliable, cost effective and efficient transport mode.
“This investment will further support a thriving economy that promotes sustainable economic growth, supports a healthier life style, provides safe and accessible mobility options and socially includes all communities and preserves the environment”.
Source: Government of South Africa