Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on January 17 said the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) had restored services in five of the seven passenger rail corridors in the Western Cape.
Services had been suspended at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, in 2020, and the infrastructure suffered severe damage as a result of theft and vandalism.
During an oversight visit in the province, the Minister pointed out that PRASA’s Western Cape region operates 121 stations. Services had so far been restored on the Southern line, the Northern line, the Cape Flats line, the Cape Town to Langa line and the Cape Town to Kraaifontein line.
Mbalula noted that the 38 stations on the Southern line were in good operating condition, requiring only minor maintenance work.
Further, while the majority of the 34 stations that comprise the Northern line were in a fair condition, the Minister noted that the Parow, Firgrove, Fisantekraal, Faure and Koelenhof stations had suffered “extreme vandalism” and were in a bad state.
All 21 stations in the Central line required extensive upgrade and had been prioritised as part of the PRASA Central Line Presidential Project.
The Athlone and Maitland stations in the Cape Flats were of great concern and would be upgraded as part of the National Station Improvement Programme.
“The bigger work remains the recovery of the Central Line Presidential Project. We are currently in the midst of implementing Phase 1 of the Central line recovery to introduce the Langa to Cape Town Service via Pinelands. This is to allow for the relocation of illegal settlements on the rail tracks,” Mbalula said.
He expressed confidence that the deadline to return the Central line to full service by the end of July would be met.
He noted that the resumption of services on the Cape Town to Bellville line and the Cape Town via Pinelands line was scheduled for March.
Mbalula said the Pinelands service would result in easier connections and access for commuters travelling from Langa and surrounding areas to the Cape Flats and the Athlone line, as well as to the Southern line that links from Pinelands to Retreat station.
“The return to service of commuter rail services is within the context of the broader repositioning of commuter rail as the backbone of our public transport system,” Mbalula said.
He further noted that the White Paper on National Rail Policy, which would be tabled before Cabinet in the coming weeks, articulated structural and operational changes that would be introduced to achieve this.