Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is making huge strides to modernise its passenger railway to improve the experience of passengers.
“Not only are we starting to receive delivery of the modern trainsets but the implementation of the infrastructure programme is also under way, which includes modernisation of rail stations and an overall improvement to the corridors,” says PRASA strategic asset development group executive Piet Sebola.
PRASA is rolling out the new signalling system in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, which Sebola believes will be a game changer for passenger railways, as it enhances the safety of the operation and improves the frequency of train movements, allowing for headways of 2.5 minutes.
He points out that PRASA has commissioned more than 60 stations with new signalling across the three provinces. The signalling system also caters for in-cab signalling and levels of automatic train protection, which “are high-quality technology improvements in operations and safety”, adds Sebola.
Further, PRASA is incorporating several technology improvements, such as using automatic live data collection from the new trainsets to support maintenance tracking and activities, and any incident reporting.
The agency is also planning to build several rail extensions in the next three years, which form part of improving rail’s national footprint and ensuring that the majority of people have access to passenger rail system, says Sebola.
“We are developing detailed designs for the construction of the Motherwell rail link (17 km), to the north of Nelson Mandela Bay, in the Eastern Cape, and we are about to start with the detailed designs and environmental-impact assessment for the Blue Downs rail line (9.5 km) in Cape Town, in the Western Cape.
The feasibility study for the development of the Daveyton-Etwatwa rail corridor (11 km), which will connect areas such as Chris Hani, Etwatwa and Knoppiesfontein, in the south of Johannesburg, has also been completed.
Meanwhile, Sebola indicates that increasing investment in rail transport through PRASA has a huge bearing on the rail industry – more specifically around supporting a sustainable supply chain of various rail services and a consistent build programme that contributes significantly to job creation and economic stimulation in the sector.
Considering that rail is a designated sector with a strong emphasis on localisation of various components to drive industrialisation, the agency becomes the central point from which to re-stimulate the local rail industry, he points out.
“A case in point is PRASA’s current acquisition of 600 new trainsets over a 12-year period . . .102 commodities are currently being localised, with more than 59 companies contracted through this transaction.”
With regard to safety, Sebola notes that PRASA continues to work closely with the South African Railway Safety Regulator to improve mitigation measures that would reduce and eliminate train safety incidences. The agency is also aiming to appoint additional train control officers to increase capacity at the central train control centres to ensure safer train movements.
It is also increasing its engagement with communities, civil society organisations and commuter forums focusing on the prevention of theft and vandalism of rail infrastructure.