DoT, PRASA rehabilitating, reopening Mabopane rail commuter line

19th January 2022 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The Department of Transport (DoT) and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) are making progress with the R1.4-billion programme to upgrade infrastructure and implement refurbishments to reopen the Mabopane Corridor, with Pienaarspoort to Pretoria and Mabopane to Pretoria services having resumed on January 17.

This followed the resumption of limited services on the Saulsville to Pretoria section in October last year.

The Johannesburg to Naledi line will resume operations on March 30, and the Mabopane Line will return to full service by the end of July. The Railway Safety Regulator has granted PRASA a no-objection notice, allowing PRASA to start operations with its new trains, following the efforts to rehabilitate and upgrade infrastructure of the rail corridor.

More than R700-million has been spent on the programme, including R255-million spent on 14 substations. The upgraded substations will allow for more trains to be added on to the system and copper content has been reduced to make PRASA's assets less attractive to criminals.

The newly installed traction transformers are also more energy efficient, PRASA said on January 19.

Additionally, 163 km of overhead track equipment was installed at a cost of R383-million and R38-million has been spent on the Mabopane perimeter walling on signal equipment rooms.

"The Mabopane line has seen its fair share of challenges before the declaration of the state of disaster and needed major infrastructure upgrades before the new trains could be deployed on this line. We took a decision in 2019 to close down the line and accelerate the rollout of infrastructure upgrades," said Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.

"We saw the first of the new trains taking the track on Monday, January 17. On the first day, the service was off to a good start, although a number of teething problems were experienced, as 26 trains were scheduled to operate, but only 21 operated and five of these were cancelled, with two cancellations taking place in the morning peak, two cancellations off-peak and one cancellation in the afternoon peak."

Further, 13 trains experienced delays, with six of these during the morning peak and seven during off-peak. No delays were reported in the afternoon peak.

"Issues that led to delays and cancellations include technical glitches and first-day teething issues. Some of the problems were exacerbated by power interruptions. A total of 1 208 passengers used the train service on the first day. On the second day, all the technical glitches that gave rise to delays and cancellations were resolved as a result there were no cancellations and only a single six-minute delay was reported.

"As we rebuild the passenger railway lines, we are putting measures in place to ensure that the newly installed equipment is protected through improved security interventions, inclusive of the walling programme, to avoid recurrence of the current situation," Mbalula said.

The station rehabilitation programme for 23 stations at a cost of R100-million has started. Currently, five stations, where repairs and minor renovations have been done to bring the stations to basic functionality, are operational. These are the Mabopane, Pretoria North, Mountain View, Hercules and Pretoria stations.

"Contractors have been appointed to rehabilitate an additional six stations and the contractors will take occupation of the sites this week. The stations are Soshanguve, Kopanong, Akasiaboom 4, Tailorshoop, Garankuwa and Dewildt," said Mbalula.

Of the total cost of R100-million set aside for upgrades of 23 stations, R60-million has already been committed and construction work is due to start before the end of January. Procurement and work on the remainder of the stations will be undertaken and finalised during the course of the year.

The Gauteng region has 16 corridors and twelve corridors have been identified as priority corridors requiring major rehabilitation work. Three corridors in the Gauteng region consist of twelve lines that were badly damaged and have been identified as critical for returning commuter rail services to normal operations, Mbalula said.