Commuter rail operator Metrorail and long-distance passenger rail operator Shosholoza Meyl were expected to go to tender for new rolling stock in 2012, said Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin on Tuesday.
Speaking at the sidelines of the AfricaRail 2011 conference, he said government hoped to see the first new rolling stock come off the production line by 2014.
Within government, the provisional price tag of acquiring new rolling stock for Metrorail and Shosholoza Meyl is estimated at around R97-billion over an 18-year project period.
“We realise as the South African government that we have to invest in rail. It is going to cost, but the cost of not doing so will be considerably higher. We just have to bite the bullet,” said Cronin.
He added that is was questionable whether Metrorail was currently achieving the more than 90% reliability and fare collection as the rail operator had suggested was the case.
“We know this is not true.”
Cronin noted that Metrorail was currently moving 2.2-million passengers per weekday, but that it was possible to go to 4-million through improved service levels and added capacity, without expanding the network.
The average age of the current Metrorail rolling stock was 37 years.
National Railways of Zimbabwe CEO Mike Karakadzai said at the conference that 37 years was “still new” for rolling stock operating in the sub-Saharan region.
“Many are 60 years, even 80 years old.”
Cronin also noted that government was looking at the introduction of a Rail Economic Regulator that would take a closer look at how money flowed within South Africa’s rail sector.
He noted, for example, that Transnet used its port levies to cross-subsidise its freight rail operations.
“We would like more transparency on how these cross subsidies flowed, for example.”