While the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula supports the sentiment that the City of Cape Town must conduct a feasibility study into taking over rail management in the metro, he has not approved the commuter rail takeover by the city.
This is the response of the Department of Transport to Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis' who made comments on Thursday that the Minister of Finance supports a feasibility study on the matter.
The city has reportedly issued a tender in this regard as the first step in a quest to take over the management of the rail network from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).
"The Minister of Transport, who is empowered by law to assign any public transport function to a municipality, supports the sentiment of the Minister of Finance that the city must conduct this feasibility study to inform the assignment and delegation framework, which must demonstrate the capacity of the city to undertake this function.
"The implementation process will therefore be subject to policy and legal imperatives. In light of the above, any suggestion that the Minister of Finance has given a green light for commuter rail takeover by the City of Cape Town is inaccurate," the department said.
The department said that only the Minister of Transport can assign a public transport function to another sphere of government.
"The White Paper on National Rail Policy, recently approved by Cabinet acknowledges the importance of devolving public transport functions to the lowest level of government.
"To this end, the policy requires the development and approval of a Devolution Strategy for Commuter Rail to guide the assignment of the commuter rail function at municipal level," it said.
The National Land Transport Act of 2009 (NLTA) provides for service level planning by municipalities for passenger rail service on a corridor basis. The law imposes a number of obligations on a municipality in integrating passenger rail planning in its integrated public transport networks.
"It is important to note that the NLTA empowers the Minister to assign a function to a municipality provided that the municipality has adequate capacity to undertake that function. The rail function is one such function.
"In the coming week, Minister Mbalula will publicly release the White Paper on National Rail Policy and this matter will be addressed in detail at the launch," the department said.