While the Gautrain will resume its OR Tambo International Airport service when the coronavirus (Covid-19) level 3 regulations come into effect on June 1, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is not yet ready to resume Metrorail commuter services, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Saturday.
"When we presented level 4 directions, we indicated that commuter rail will resume operations gradually on an incremental basis, based on detailed plans submitted by operators," he said in a statement outlining the transport directives for level 3.
"Indeed, the Gautrain resumed its operations at the beginning of May 2020. As on 1 June 2020, the Gautrain will resume the airport service.
"Through our ongoing engagements and evaluation of PRASA’s state of readiness to resume operations, we have concluded that PRASA is not ready to resume with the Metrorail commuter service. We continue to work closely with PRASA in assessing each line and putting measures in place to achieve an acceptable level of readiness," he said.
The timelines in respect of the resumption of the Metrorail commuter service had therefore been revised. The revised target date was now July 1 on the following lines: Pretoria to Pienaarspoort; Cape Town to Simonstown; East London to Berlin; and Port Elizabeth to Uitenhage. Long distance trains remained prohibited.
With the increase in the number of people returning to work and school pupils and students returning to institutions of learning, long distance public transport crossing provincial, metropolitan, or district boundaries was permitted, Mbalula said.
The condition for such operation was that public transport vehicles were only allowed to transport people permitted to travel between provinces in terms of the regulations. Such travel was restricted to:
- people undertaking work responsibilities or performing a service permitted under level 3, provided they were in possession of the requisite permit;
- people moving to a new place of residence;
- people caring for an immediate family member;
- pupils or students who had to commute to and from schools or institutions of higher learning during periods when those schools or institutions were permitted to operate;
- attendance of funerals;
- transportation of mortal remains;
- obtaining medical treatment;
- people returning to their place of residence from a quarantine or isolation facility;
- movement of children; and
- Members of Parliament performing oversight responsibilities.
The time restrictions on all road-based public transport modes were lifted. Public transport would now be allowed to operate throughout the day. However, capacity restrictions remained. Minibus taxis remained at 70 percent loading capacity; buses to a maximum loading capacity of 50 percent, taking due regard of standing passengers; eHailing and metered taxis at 50 percent; and shuttle, chauffeur, and charter services at 50 percent loading capacity, he said.
All drivers’ licence testing centres (DLTCs), vehicle testing centres (VTCs), and provincial regulatory entities (PREs) would resume their operations on June 1, subject to strict application of health norms and standards and their ability to pass the assessment on their state of readiness test conducted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
"We remain guided by the risk-adjusted approach of government and have taken a cautious approach to the measures easing the lockdown effects on transport. We will further continue with our engagement with the stakeholders within the transport sector to find solutions to the difficult task at hand of balancing the competing interests of preservation of lives and supporting livelihoods," Mbalula said.