The South African government will spend about R38-billion over the next three years on the procurement of new trains for the Metrorail service, as well as on the modernisation of signalling systems, depots, perway and stations, says new Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
“The expenditure will ensure that the current Metrorail system is modernised to deliver a safe, reliable and efficient rail service.”
Speaking in Sandton at the Africa Rail conference on Wednesday, he said that 22 trains of a planned fleet of 600 new trains had already been delivered to Metrorail, with four of these produced in South Africa, at the Gibela plant, in Nigel.
The Gibela Rail Transport Consortium will deliver all of the 600 new trains in a R59-billion deal signed in 2014.
Eighteen of the 22 trains are currently deployed to carry passengers on the Pienaarspoort – Pretoria corridor, with the other four trains still undergoing testing.
Mbalula said that Metrorail, operated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), had already commissioned new signalling systems on selected corridors, as part of R10-billion programme aimed at improving efficiency and safety on the commuter rail system.
“The programme . . . is well underway.”
The corridors which have already received new signalling systems include the southern line, in the Western Cape, the Pinetown line, in KwaZulu-Natal, and the Tembisa line, in Gauteng.
Mbalula also noted, in response to a question from the media, that the investment programme sought to address the fact that Metrorail was oversubscribed, with trains often not running on time. A modernisation programme would, however, not achieve the desired results if criminal elements continued to sabotage the system.
“We’ll ensure that there is proper policing on the trains and we’ll do that working hand in hand with the minister of police, because, in terms of the South African Constitution, policing resides with the minister of police. In this regard we’ll work with him in upgrading the policing on our trains.”
PRASA faces the double threat of its commuters and staff being targeted by criminal elements, while its assets are also under constant attack.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has, in the past, declined policing PRASA’s assets, forcing the formation of the Western Cape Rail Enforcement Unit (REU), funded by PRASA, the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town.
In the twelve months after the formation of the REU in 2018, the teams have responded to 258 incidents, which resulted in 347 arrests – this according to PRASA data.
Damages for the 12 months amounted to R134.1-million.
The most targeted material proved to be underground signal cable, with 93% of this recovered by the REU.