10 October 2007
South Africa has committed over R16-billion to improve and expand the country’s passenger rail system over the next three years, in a bid to persuade commuters to forsake their private vehicles for public transportation.
Transport Minister Jeff Radebe explained that a significant portion of this amount had already been spent by the South African Rail Commuter Corporation (SARCC) to upgrade 2 000 of their 4 600 coaches around the country.
“The SARCC has used R7-billion as part of its Accelerated Rolling Stock Investment Programme,” he said at the Kwamashu Station outside Durban on Tuesday. “Rolling contracts of three to five years have been entered into with all the rolling stock suppliers, penalties put in place and delivery is already underway.”
He further urged suppliers to meet their delivery and performance obligations under the programme, as they would be evaluated on an annual basis to make sure the Department of Transport met its targets. Further allocations made to suppliers would be dependent on their performance.
The department said the service in Durban had already taken delivery of eight 10M5 train sets at a cost of about R345-million, while another six sets of the 10M5 are to be acquired over the current year at a cost of R259-million.
“I am aware that the SARCC plans to build on current capacity another nine upgrades at a cost of R389-million. This delivery of coaches is aimed at improving train availability nationally to 96% of the current fleet by 2010,” Radebe said.
SARCC chief executive Lucky Montana said they were putting more trains in their system for punctuality purposes and were busy fixing 200 coaches, 12 of which would be delivered to the KwaZulu-Natal province.
“Over the next three years we will increase our trains in all the country’s stations,” he said. This, he said, was expected to improve the service’s punctuality and reliability, reduce journey cancellations and delays as well as reduce overcrowding.
National Rail Plan
Radebe said the passenger rail sector faced many challenges as the service had lost significant capacity as well as hundreds of thousands of train trips over the past eight or 10 years.
“We need to reverse this trend and the damage caused by many decades of under-investment if we expect passenger rail to respond effectively to existing and future passenger demands,” he said.
Radebe also revealed that the National Rail Plan, developed in partnership by national, provincial and local government and the SARCC, proposes in excess of 40 new railway extensions for the country.
He said further work was under way between the transport department and the SARCC to ensure that additional rail corridors are identified in rural areas of South Africa, enhancing mobility for rural communities and thereby enabling them to participate more actively in the country’s economy.
“I am confident that with the changes and turnaround strategy, underpinned by the huge investment in infrastructure, operations and skills, passenger rail will live to the challenges of our times,” Radebe said.