21 March 2019

South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa Directs Immediate Action to Address Commuter Rail Challenges

press release

President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed the Minister of Transport, Dr Blade Nzimande, to urgently resolve the challenges plaguing commuter rail agency, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

The President held a meeting with Minister Nzimande at Tuynhuys in Cape Town on Tuesday 19 March 2019 following the President's first-hand experience of the difficulties regularly experienced by commuters when the President boarded a train from Mabopane to the Tshwane CBD earlier this week.

Among the challenges raised at the meeting was the deterioration of infrastructure and unacceptable delays of train services, which often result in commuters arriving late for work, school and other commitments. Passenger and driver safety also received attention.

The President stressed the need for a safe, reliable and integrated public transport system to support the country's economic development aspirations.

While appreciating that Prasa is currently implementing one of the largest urban rail modernisation programmes in the world, the agency's failure to implement its turnaround plans and, in the process, pay due attention to critical rail operational functions, is a cause for concern.

The President has directed immediate action to strengthen governance by stabilising the leadership cohort at Board level and filling critical vacancies, including that of the Group Chief Executive Officer.

The President has also called for practical and urgent action to bridge the gap between the turnaround strategies developed and their day-to-day implementation. He directed that a capable and skilled team of specialists should be established to conduct due diligence on the rail network to determine the extent of challenges.

Urgent action is required to accelerate the implementation of the R172 billion modernisation programme meant to eliminate challenges occasioned by aged infrastructure.

Minister Nzimande is expected to make announcements in due course on the delivery of these commitments and other actions to be undertaken to restore service performance at Prasa.

The President has further welcomed the imminent introduction of 24 new train sets in Gauteng to augment the 18 new sets delivered last year, emphasising that this intervention will go a long way to improve train availability and performance.

The increase in rolling stock availability from 160 to 260 sets during the current financial year is expected to alleviate the burden in other parts of the country.

President Ramaphosa accepts that there are longstanding challenges at Prasa that will require substantial resources and several years to address, but believes there are immediate steps that can and will be taken to increase efficiency and improve the daily experiences of commuters.

President Ramaphosa said: "There is no reason why commuters should have to endure frequent delays or feel unsafe on our trains. This is a problem that we can work together to solve."

Issued by: The Presidency

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