Passenger rail improvements on track

20 June 2012

Plans to give South Africa’s passenger rail services a complete overhaul are on track as a preferred bidder for the building of 7 224 new trains will be announced in November, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) chief executive Lucky Montana says.

Briefing the National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP) select committee on public services in Cape Town on Tuesday, Montana said that the first of the new trains manufactured as part of Prasa’s 20-year fleet renewal programme are expected to be running in 2014.

As part of the programme, old coaches are also being refurbished, as well as revamping and modernising stations and signalling.

A request for proposals was put out by Prasa in April for local companies to outline the design of a new train. Montana believed the country had to use this investment to revitalise its local industry, and a condition in the request for proposals stated that 65% of components must be manufactured in South Africa.

‘Revitalising local industry’

Montana said he expected that this would create about 75 000 jobs, as well as boost the number of artisan skills in the country.

A black economic empowerment (BEE) programme for the building of the new coaches would be announced shortly and Montana assured the committee that there would be a “huge stake for black businesses” – up to 40%.

“Workers, disabled people and women must also be involved,” he said.

Prasa is also refurbishing hundreds of coaches a year and about 15% of all train sets had been refurbished so far, he said, at a cost of about R7-million per coach.

This financial year will see the overhauling of 530 coaches, at a cost of R2-billion, up from 200 coaches a year a few years ago.

Added to this, Prasa would invest R7-billion into a modern signalling system and Siemens had already been appointed to carry out some of the work.

In the long-term, onboard train protection – an electronic system which takes over from the driver should the driver not take action or should he have a heart attack – would also be installed.

Safer, cleaner stations

Montana said Prasa would also carry out 98 station improvement projects this financial year to improve safety and cleanliness. At some stations community members have been trained and have been assisted to set up co-operatives to clean stations.

Modern speed gates, to the value of R1.9-billion, would also be set up at various stations across the country ahead of the introduction of a single transport card for bus and train commuters.

According to Montana, Prasa would extend rail lines and a number of projects would be developed, including a Johannesburg-Durban High Speed Rail link – to reduce travel time between the two cities to three hours.

Other projects include the Moloto Rail Corridor and the Johannesburg-Queenstown- Mthatha Rail project, of which R450-million had been committed over the next three years, which included the construction of eight stations.

Rail links to Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport had also been proposed.

South Africa, he said, could no longer afford to fall behind the rest of the world, having already missed several “rail revolutions” – including the introduction of modern commuter trains and high-speed trains in other countries.

Source: BuaNews