Rail reform will be ‘doomed’ unless yet-to-be-appointed infrastructure manager is independent – industry body

An image of ARIA CEO Mesela Kope-Nhlapo

Mesela Kope-Nhlapo

1st September 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online


Font size: - +

The imminent announcement of an infrastructure manager (IM) to oversee the implementation of the National Rail Policy is an important step in the revitalisation of South Africa’s freight rail future, but unless this IM is independent and impartial, rail reform is “doomed”, warns industry body the African Rail Industry Association (ARIA).

ARIA CEO Mesela Kope-Nhlapo warns that if it is Transnet Freight Rail’s (TFR’s) intention to create an IM position as a part of TFR by October this year, it is against the spirit and intent of the National Rail Policy.

“The National Rail Policy of 2022 states that there should be a split between infrastructure and train operations to facilitate third-party access across the network. Transnet is trying to be both a participant and a manager in this process, and it is not going to work out well,” she says.

Kope-Nhlapo says the National Rail Policy is explicit when it comes to the role-players in the rail reform process.

“There are three distinct roles: asset owner, which is the government, directly or indirectly via Transnet; the IM, which is the entity responsible for the management of the railway network and corridors; and train operating companies, which include TFR, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and private third-party companies.

“From this proposed structure it should be self-evident that independent, competent and well-funded infrastructure managers will attract private-sector investment into South Africa’s failing rail infrastructure and ensure equitable private-sector participation,” she says.

Kope-Nhlapo notes that commercially viable investments by the private sector in the rail network and rolling stock are vital to stimulate development and create meaningful reform that will allow freight railway transportation to take its meaningful place once again in the country’s supply chains, make a considerable contribution to gross domestic product growth and create employment.

“The decline of TFR and PRASA has seen the rail ecosystem decimated over the past decade, to the detriment of South Africa’s core railway capabilities. Additionally, the lack of railway network maintenance in recent years adds urgency to the appointment of an independent, impartial IM.

“Simply put, the revitalisation of our freight rail network is entirely dependent on this. If it does not happen, there will be no private- sector investment into the freight sector,” Kope-Nhlapo says.

“However, now that the government has laid the foundation for a unique partnership between the State and the private sector, it must also implement the policy fully to allow the much-needed private-sector capital to flow into the railways,” she adds.

Kope-Nhlapo says ARIA believes that several principles are critical to the rail reform process and must be properly addressed, including that interoperability between the infrastructure management functions for concessioned or leased railway lines and Transnet and PRASA lines needs to be established.

Moreover, ARIA says the IM function that looks after core elements of the TFR and PRASA railway systems needs to be completely independent and that the principles of fair and equitable access across all lines to all operators (private and public) in the country must be required of all infrastructure managers.

Further, ARIA says compliance will be enforced by the future single transport economic regulator, as tariff and penalty regimes will, therefore, be managed transparently.

Lastly, it says that the infrastructure managers must attain and maintain safe operating standards as enforced by the Rail Safety Regulator.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



Aqs image
AQS Liquid Transfer

AxFlow AQS Liquid Transfer (Pty) Ltd is an Importer and Distributor of Pumps in Southern Africa


Rooted in the hearts of South Africans, combining technology and a quest for perfection to bring you a battery of peerless standing. Willard...


Latest Multimedia

sponsored by

On-The-Air (17/05/2024)
On-The-Air (17/05/2024)
17th May 2024 By: Martin Creamer
Magazine round up | 10 May 2024
Magazine round up | 17 May 2024
17th May 2024

Option 1 (equivalent of R125 a month):

Receive a weekly copy of Creamer Media's Engineering News & Mining Weekly magazine
(print copy for those in South Africa and e-magazine for those outside of South Africa)
Receive daily email newsletters
Access to full search results
Access archive of magazine back copies
Access to Projects in Progress
Access to ONE Research Report of your choice in PDF format

Option 2 (equivalent of R375 a month):

All benefits from Option 1
Access to Creamer Media's Research Channel Africa for ALL Research Reports, in PDF format, on various industrial and mining sectors including Electricity; Water; Energy Transition; Hydrogen; Roads, Rail and Ports; Coal; Gold; Platinum; Battery Metals; etc.

Already a subscriber?

Forgotten your password?







sq:2.426 16.583s - 137pq - 2rq
Subscribe Now