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PRASA working to restore three Gauteng rail corridors before year-end

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula

21st July 2022

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is rebuilding and recovering five high-priority commuter rail corridors, three of which, in Gauteng, will reopen before the end of the year.

These are in addition to five lines that are already operational.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and the management of PRASA this week conducted an oversight inspection of the work on the Leralla to Johannesburg corridor, the Pretoria to Pienaarspoort corridor and the Naledi to Johannesburg corridor.

Work to replace overhead traction equipment (OHTE) on the Naledi to Johannesburg line is 70% complete and OHTE work on the Pienaarspoort to Pretoria line is 90% complete. Both will open in September.

Work on the OHTE on the Leralla to Johannesburg line is 40% complete and it will open in October.

PRASA is also working to recover the Kliptown line, in Soweto.

Additionally, PRASA will also open a train service connecting Johannesburg to Pretoria.

As part of the R2.7-billion reconstruction and recovery, the agency has reduced the amount of copper in its infrastructure by 70%, replacing various OHTE with aluminium lines, except for the pantograph contact cable, which remains copper.

PRASA acting CEO Dr David Mpelo explained to Mbalula that there were no alternatives to copper currently, although the agency was investigating the viability of a copper/magnesium alloy contact cable to reduce the amount of copper in the cable.

Additionally, the capacity of the traction transformer in the electricity substations on the Pienaarspoort line have been upgraded from 4.5 MW to 6 MW to enable the corridor to run more trains and to be ready for future demand, he said.

Further, many of the overhead power cables have been changed from 500 mm copper to 800 mm aluminium cables.

The company has also invested significantly in improving security of its rail reserves, in-sourcing 3 100 security staff and establishing contracts with private security companies to protect the newly refurbished infrastructure, said PRASA chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane.

Many of the railway stations were devastated by looting and vandalism during the Covid-19 lockdowns and PRASA is rebuilding its passenger rail infrastructure and the majority of its stations.

The Pretoria to Pienaarspoort corridor, which covers Koedoespoort, Silverton, Eersterust, Eerste Fabrieke, Mamelodi and Pienaarspoort, besides others, is 53 km long and has 16 train stations.

Eight of these stations are currently operational and four will be refurbished in time for the resumption of service. A limited service with electrical motor units is expected to resume in August across 12 stations.

The Leralla to Johannesburg corridor, which covers Leralla, Limindlela, Tembisa, Kempton Park, Elandsfontein, Germiston and Cleveland, Ellis Park and Doorfontein, besides others, is 95 km long and has 20 stations, of which nine are operational and 11 under rehabilitation and refurbishment.

Many of the stations will undergo major rehabilitation work and reconstruction, while the Limindlela, Van Reebackspark, Isando and Elandsfontein stations will undergo minor rehabilitation work.

Service on this line is expected to resume in October, while PRASA works on the modernisation of signalling and telecommunications projects.

The 70 km Naledi to Johannesburg corridor has 15 stations and covers areas including Naledi, Dube, Phefeni, Mzimhlope, Mayfair, Langlaagte, Grosvenor and Braamfontein, besides others.

A limited service is expected to resume by the end of September, while PRASA also works on plans to modernise its depots in Johannesburg for the staging of the new electrical motor units.

The Grosvenor, Naledi, Ikwezi, Phomolong, Longdale and Mayfair stations will require major rehabilitation and reconstruction work.

Further, demolition work took place on some sections of the Kliptown Station in July, which will allow for the introduction of alternative building technology (ABT). The Grosvenor, Kliptown and Nancefield stations have been identified as stations that will see the introduction of ABT, said Ramatlakane.

"Some of the destroyed stations cannot be rebuilt. We will look at using ABT and Phase 1 of the project will also look at improving access and flow of commuters within the stations," he said at Grosvenor station during the oversight tour.

The corridors prioritised for reconstruction and recovery are aimed at serving the greatest demand for commuter rail services first, said Mbalula.

"The magnitude of the challenge is significant, given the poor state of PRASA and the destruction of infrastructure, but the agency now has the people, the board and resources to make swift progress to recover rail services and protect this infrastructure and the agency from crime and corruption," he said.

Meanwhile, five commuter rail corridors are currently operational, namely Pretoria to Saulsville, Cape Flats, the Cape Town to Simonstown Southern corridor, the Cape Town to Wellington Northern corridor and the Mabopane line.

The Naledi to Johannesburg, Leralla to Johannesburg and Pienaarspoort to Pretoria lines will open before the end of the year.

The recovery of the Umlazi and KwaMashu corridors, in KwaZulu-Natal, have been affected by the floods in April.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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