Transport Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has rebutted the City of Cape Town’s appointment of rail experts to assist with a takeover plan for passenger rail in the city.
African News Agency on Tuesday reported that Cape Town had announced that it was evaluating four tenders for the exercise and that the rail experts, once appointed, would help the transport directorate develop a feasible and incremental plan for the city to assume the urban rail function from the State-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).
The news agency further reported that the city council had approved the business plan in October 2017 and stated that its structured and incremental format will allow the city to acquire the necessary skills and develop additional capacity to ensure the long-term sustainability of the rail service.
Nzimande described the city’s plans as “dishonest, opportunistic and absolute political maneuvering that seeks to undermine the efforts by national government to change the rail landscape of South Africa”, which has been characterised by decades of underinvestment.
In terms of the legal succession to the South African Transport Service Act, the Department of Transport is the only transport authority that regulates all rail commuter services within, to and from the country.
“For the City of Cape Town to reinvent the wheel and interfere with the mandate of another sphere of government will not . . . assist rail commuters to have an improved, accessible, reliable and cost-effective public transport,” the Minister said.
Nzimande added that the Cape Town corridor required about 110 full train sets and that there were 88 fully configured trains operating in the city.
He assured commuters that PRASA was undertaking extensive infrastructure work, such as fixing of perways and signalling, to improve its services.
The Minister has been meeting with the PRASA board and labour unions to find common solutions to the operational challenges that PRASA has been facing.