South Africa: Basics Before Bullet Trains - Winde On Bid to Take Over Western Cape Trains

The Western Cape government intends taking over the province's rail network from national government and to license private operators to get systems running reliably instead of focusing on "bullet trains", Premier Alan Winde announced on Thursday.

"We intend to take over the management of the rail system in the province from national government so that the trains work and run on time," said Winde during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) in Cape Town.

"We intend to introduce competition by licensing private sector operators to take over the operation of the railways system on qualifying routes in the Western Cape," he added.

"And we intend to introduce a combined ticketing system to be used on all modes of public transport."

This follows last year's similar call by the City of Cape Town that it be allowed to run Metrorail, which is struggling with regular vandalism, coach fires, cable theft and crime on trains.

Premiers in agreement

Winde, who succeeded Helen Zille as premier, who was seated in the public gallery, said that Cape Town was one of the most congested cities in the world, but fixing the basics had to come before entertaining any thought of the bullet train President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned at his State of the Nation Speech last month.

He said the province was planning to work together with Gauteng Premier David Makhura on these transport innovations, saying Makhura shared the same vision.

Their respective directors-general had already had their first meeting, this week, in this regard.

Makhura's spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the two premiers did agree that innovations were needed, with Gauteng commuters also facing severe congestion.

Masebe told News24 that Makhura had already indicated that he thought, that since the Gauteng government had shown it was capable of running the Gautrain, it could also run the Metrorail service. This would have to be approved by national government though.

Makhura came under fire for saying in his SOPA that e-tolls would be scrapped. A spat unfolded over this on Twitter, with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni saying e-tolls must be paid.

The Gautrain is a multibillion-rand high-speed train service connecting Johannesburg to Tshwane in the north and OR Tambo International Airport in the east.

'Transport is transport'

Masebe said that Makhura was a great supporter of integrated transport networks and nodes, and that the two provinces could learn from each other, since they faced many of the same challenges, regardless of their politics.

Makhura is from the ANC and Winde from the DA.

"Transport is transport," said Masebe.

"It does not matter whether you are from the DA or the ANC, if there is a solution that can work, it should work, regardless of which party governs," he said.

Winde told the legislature that, while Ramaphosa was "dreaming" of bullet trains, his Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula could not even make it "from one side of the city to the other" on board a Metrorail train when he went on a ride in June.

GroundUp reported at the time that Mbalula eventually bailed on that ride due to delays that Richard Walker, the Western Cape head of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, attributed to issues with overhead traction wires.

'War room'

Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut of the SAPS also said that two women in their thirties had been killed after being struck by a train close to Nyanga station.

Mbalula reportedly disembarked at Philippi station and continued his oversight in his ministerial vehicle convoy.

Winde said that not having reliable and safe transport deprived people of opportunities to move freely, and risked their jobs and safety.

"Once we have these basics in place, then we can start to think about bullet trains and building our new smart cities," he said.

Mbalula has since promised a "war room" to deal with these problems and told Parliament that the plans included new security companies from September 1.

The province is also expected to get a 35 new trains by the end of 2020.

Source: News24

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