7 April 2011
South Africa’s acquisition of new rail stock worth R97-billion will serve as a catalyst for the implementation of a major rail investment plan in the country, says Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele.
Speaking at a market engagement with train manufactures and financiers in Pretoria on Tuesday, Ndebele said the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) was embarking on a bold programme to invest in new rail rolling stock over a period of 18 years.
The government has said it will contribute R30.2-billion to the project over the next three years. A further amount of R19.5-billion has been earmarked for capital spending to upgrade existing infrastructure, signaling systems and rolling stock.
The programme will enable Prasa to procure new rolling stock and locomotives for both its Metrorail service and its long-distance rail services, which will in turn significantly increase the country’s passenger rail transport network, offering new routes and destinations throughout South Africa.
“We cannot over-emphasise the fact that this will create opportunities for business, stimulate the rail engineering industry and related suppliers in the value chain, as well as contribute to our industrial policy objectives, especially the revitalisation of our own industry, employment creation as well as development of new skills,” Ndebele said.
The government’s public transport plans were not a promise for the next millennium, he added. “Government is already implementing key elements of rail investment strategy.”
The market engagement process will be used by Prasa, in partnership with the National Treasury and the Departments of Transport and Trade and Industry, in order to conduct market feasibility studies for the future Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme, with both rolling stock manufacturers and financiers of rolling stock.
Prasa CEO Lucky Montana said that without a good public transport, the country would never be able to attract investment.
While Prasa had recently upgraded more than 50 train stations and bridges, it was imperative to secure new stock. “We cannot continue refurbishing them, we have to act fast,” Montana said.
Ndebele said the country had done well in providing reliable public transport during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“The transport family played a significant role and made South Africa proud,” he said, adding that the history of the event would never be written without an acknowledgement of the huge contribution of the country’s modern upgraded road network, airports, municipal buses, Autopax’s new bus fleet, and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in cities like Johannesburg.